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THE WORKS OF 

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 

VAILIMA EDITION 

THIS EDITION, PRINTED FROM TYPE WHICH HAS BEEN 
DISTRIBUTED, IS STRICTLY LIMITED TO ONE THOUSAND 
AND THIRTY SETS FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 
OF WHICH ONE THOUSAND ARE FOR SALE AND THIRTY 
ARE FOR PRESENTATION. 

THIS IS NO. 



THE EDITION FOR GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND IS 
LIMITED TO ONE THOUSAND AND SIXTY SETS, OF WHICH 
ONE THOUSAND ARE FOR SALE AND SIXTY ARE FOR 
PRESENTATION. 



THE WORKS OF 

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 

VAILIMA EDITION 

VOLUME XVIII 



Portrait by 

Percy F. S. Spence at Sydney; 

now in National Portrait Gallery, 

London 




ROBERT LOUIS 8TEVENSON 
AGE FORTY-TWO 



THE I 
WEIR OF H 

HEAT 
THE YOU1V 

^ 

ROBERT LOl 




Nl 

CHARLES S 
LONDON: WI) 
IN ASSOCIATION \ 
CASSELL AND < 
LONGMANS, 




BOB KMT 



THE EBB-TIDE 
WEIR OF HERMISTON 

HEATHERCAT 
THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

BY 

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 




NEW YORK 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN: 
IN ASSOCIATION WITH CHATTO AND WINDUS: 
CASSELL AND COMPANY LIMITED : AND 
LONGMANS, GREEN AND COMPANY. 
MCMXXII 



V,!9 




96, 1898, 1905, 192S, > 
Charles Scribner's Sons 



Printed at the Country Life Press 
Garrlen City, New York, U. S. A. 



CONTENTS 
VOLUME XVIII 

PAGE 

THE EBB-TIDE 1 

WEIR OF HERMISTON . . . . . . 209 

THE YOUNG CHEVALIER . . . . . 409 

HEATHERCAT 435 



THE EBB-TIDE 

A Trio and Quartette 

WRITTEN IN COLLABORATION 

WITH 
LLOYD OSBOURNE 



''There is a tide in the affairs of men' 



Facsimile of Weir of Hermiston, Chapter IX 
Probably the last page penned by Stevenson 



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Facsimile of We ir of Hermislon, Chapter IX 
Probably the last page penned by Stevenson 




CHAP r l 

NIGHT ON I 

HROUG1 

of the Pacific, s* 
y European 
almost every gr 
carry activity ai 



in sheer . 
still retains i 
titude, still pe< 
gle eye-glass) of the oiti' 
sprawl in palni-leaf verand. 
island audience with m 
And there are still others. I 
ble, less fortunate, 
tinue, even in tho 

At the far end 

such men wen 4 -i^r a 

purao tree. 






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43 



' 





CHAPTER I 

NIGHT ON THE BEACH 




HROUGHOUT the island world 
of the Pacific, scattered men of 
many European races and from 
almost every grade of society 
carry activity and disseminate 
disease. Some prosper, some 
vegetate. Some have mounted the steps of 
thrones and owned islands and navies. Others, 
again, must marry for a livelihood; a strapping, 
merry, chocolate-coloured dame supports them 
in sheer idleness; and, dressed like natives, but 
still retaining some foreign element of gait or at- 
titude, still perhaps with some relic (such as a sin- 
gle eye-glass) of the officer and gentleman, they 
sprawl in palm-leaf verandahs, and entertain an 
island audience with memoirs of the music-hall. 
And there are still others, less pliable, less capa- 
ble, less fortunate, perhaps less base, who con- 
tinue, even in these isles of plenty, to lack bread. 
At the far end of the town of Papeete three 
such men were seated on the beach under a 
purao tree. 

5 



THE EBB-TIDE 

It was late. Long ago the band had broken 
up and marched musically home, a motley troop 
of men and women, merchant-clerks and navy 
officers dancing in its wake, arms about waist and 
crowned with garlands. Long ago darkness and 
silence had gone from house to house about the 
tiny pagan city. Only the street-lamps shone 
on, making a glow-worm halo in the umbrageous 
alleys, or drawing a tremulous image on the 
waters of the port. A sound of snoring ran 
among the piles of lumber by the Government 
pier. It was wafted ashore from the graceful, 
clipper-bottomed schooners, where they lay 
moored close in like dinghies, and their crews 
were stretched upon the deck under the open 
sky or huddled in a rude tent amidst the dis- 
order of merchandise. 

But the men under the purao had no thought 
of sleep. The same temperature in England 
would have passed without remark in summer; 
but it was bitter cold for the South Seas. In- 
animate nature knew it, and the bottle of cocoa- 
nut oil stood frozen in every bird-cage house 
about the island ; and the men knew it, and shiv- 
ered. They wore flimsy cotton clothes, the same 
they had sweated in by day and run the gauntlet 
of the tropic showers ; and to complete their evil 
case, they had had no breakfast to mention, less 
dinner, and no supper at all. 

In the telling South Sea phrase, these three 
men were on the beach. Common calamity had 

6 



NIGHT ON THE BEACH 

brought them acquainted, as the three most mis- 
erable English-speaking creatures in Tahiti; and 
beyond their misery, they knew next to nothing 
of each other, not even their true names. For 
each had made a long apprenticeship in going 
downward; and, each at some stage of the de- 
scent, had been shamed into the adoption of an 
alias. And yet not one of them had figured in 
a court of justice. Two were men of kindly 
virtues; and one, as he sat and shivered under 
the purao, had a tattered Virgil in his pocket. 

Certainly, if money could have been raised 
upon the book, Robert Herrick would long ago 
have sacrificed that last possession. But the de- 
mand for literature, which is so marked a feature 
in some parts of the South Seas, extends not so 
far as the dead tongues; and the Virgil, which 
he could not exchange against a meal, had often 
consoled him in his hunger. He would study it, 
as he lay with tightened belt on the floor of the 
old calaboose, seeking favourite passages, and 
finding new ones only less beautiful because they 
lacked the consecration of remembrance. Or he 
would pause on random country walks, sit on 
the path-side, gazing over the sea, on the moun- 
tains of Eimeo, and dip into the Mneid, seeking 
sortes. And if the oracle (as is the way of oracles) 
replied with no very certain or encouraging voice, 
visions of England, at least, would throng upon 
the exile's memory, the busy schoolroom; the 
green playing-fields; holidays at home, and the 

7 



THE EBB-TIDE 

perennial roar of London; and the fireside, and 
the white head of his father. For it is the destiny 
of those grave, restrained, and classic writers, 
with whom we make enforced and often painful 
acquaintanceship at school, to pass into the 
blood and become native in the memory ; so that 
a phrase of Virgil speaks not so much of Mantua 
or Augustus, but of English places and the stu- 
dent's own irrevocable youth. 

Robert Herrick was the son of an intelligent, 
active, and ambitious man, small partner in a 
considerable London house. Hopes were con- 
ceived of the boy ; he was sent to a good school, 
gained there an Oxford scholarship, and pro- 
ceeded in course to the western University. With 
all his talent and taste (and he had much of 
both) Robert was deficient in consistency and in- 
tellectual manhood, wandered in by-paths of 
study, worked at music or at metaphysics when 
he should have been at Greek, and took at last a 
paltry degree. Almost at the same time, the 
London house was disastrously wound up; Mr. 
Herrick must begin the world again as a clerk in 
a strange office, and Robert relinquish his am- 
bitions, and accept with gratitude a career that 
he detested and despised. He had no head for 
figures, no interest in affairs, detested the con- 
straint of hours, and despised the aims and the 
success of merchants. To grow rich was none 
of his ambitions; rather to do well. A worse or 
a more bold young man would have refused the 

8 



destiny; perhaps tried his fortune with his pen; 
perhaps enlisted. Robert, more prudent, possi- 
bly more timid, consented to embrace that way 
of life in which he could most readily assist his 
family. But he did so with a mind divided; 
fled the neighbourhood of former comrades, and 
chose, out of several positions placed at his dis- 
posal, a clerkship in New York. 

His career thenceforth was one of unbroken 
shame. He did not drink, he was exactly honest, 
he was never rude to his employers, yet was 
everywhere discharged. Bringing no interest 
to his duties, he brought no attention; his day 
was a tissue of things neglected and things done 
amiss; and from place to place, and from town to 
town, he carried the character of one thoroughly 
incompetent. No man can hear the word ap- 
plied to him without some flush of colour, as in- 
deed there is none other that so emphatically 
slams in a man's face the door of self-respect. 
And to Herrick, who was conscious of talents 
and acquirements, who looked down upon those 
humble duties in which he was found wanting, 
the pain was the more exquisite. Early in his 
fall he had ceased to be able to make remittances; 
shortly after, having nothing but failure to com- 
municate, he ceased writing home; and about a 
year before this tale begins, turned suddenly up- 
on the streets of San Francisco by a vulgar and 
infuriated German Jew, he had broken the last 
bonds of self-respect, and upon a sudden impulse, 

9 



THE EBB-TIDE 

changed his name, and invested his last dollar 
in a passage on the mail brigantine, the City 
of Papeete. With what expectation he had 
trimmed his flight for the South Seas, Herrick 
perhaps scarcely knew. Doubtless there were for- 
tunes to be made in pearl and copra; doubtless 
others, not more gifted than himself, had climbed 
in the island world to be queens' consorts and 
kings' ministers. But if Herrick had gone there 
with any manful purpose, he would have kept his 
father's name; the alias betrayed his moral bank- 
ruptcy; he had struck his flag; he entertained no 
hope to reinstate himself or help his straitened 
family; and he came to the islands (where he 
knew the climate to be soft, bread cheap, and 
manners easy) a skulker from life's battle and 
his own immediate duty. Failure, he had said, 
was his portion; let it be a pleasant failure. 

It is fortunately not enough to say, "I will be 
base." Herrick continued in the islands his ca- 
reer of failure ; but in the new scene, and under 
the new name, he suffered no less sharply than 
before. A place was got, it was lost in the old 
style. From the long-suffering of the keepers of 
restaurants, he fell to more open charity upon 
the wayside; as time went on, good-nature be- 
came weary, and, after a repulse or two, Herrick 
became shy. There were women enough who 
would have supported a far worse and a far 
uglier man; Herrick never met or never knew 
them; or if he did both, some manlier feeling 

10 



NIGHT ON THE BEACH 

would revolt, and he preferred starvation. 
Drenched with rains, broiling by day, shivering 
by night, a disused and ruinous prison for a bed- 
room, his diet begged or pilfered out of rubbish 
heaps, his associates two creatures equally out- 
cast with himself, he had drained for months the 
cup of penitence. He had known what it was 
to be resigned, what it was to break forth in a 
childish fury of rebellion against fate, and what 
it was to sink into the coma of despair. The 
tune had changed him. He told himself no long- 
er tales of an easy and perhaps agreeable declen- 
sion ; he read his nature otherwise ; he had proved 
himself incapable of rising, and he now learned 
by experience that he could not stoop to fall. 
Something that was scarcely pride or strength, 
that was perhaps only refinement, withheld him 
from capitulation ; but he looked on upon his own 
misfortune with a growing rage, and sometimes 
wondered at his patience. 

It was now the fourth month completed, and 
still there was no change or sign of change. The 
moon, racing through a world of flying clouds 
of every size and shape and density, some black 
as inkstains, some delicate as lawn, threw the 
marvel of her Southern brightness over the same 
lovely and detested scene, the island mountains 
crowned with the perennial island cloud, the em- 
bowered city studded with rare lamps, the masts 
' in the harbour, the smooth mirror of the lagoon, 
and the mole of the barrier-reef on which the 

11 



THE EBB-TIDE 

breakers whitened. The moon shone, too, with 
bull's-eye sweeps, on his companions, on the 
stalwart frame of the American who called him- 
self Brown, and was known to be a master- 
mariner in some disgrace; and on the dwarfish 
person, the pale eyes, and toothless smile of a 
vulgar and bad-hearted cockney clerk. Here 
was society for Robert Herrick! The Yankee 
skipper was a man at least; he had sterling quali- 
ties of tenderness and resolution; he was one 
whose hand you could take without a blush. But 
there was no redeeming grace about the other, 
who called himself sometimes Hay and some- 
times Tomkins, and laughed at the discrepancy; 
who had been employed in every store in Pa- 
peete, for the creature was able in his way ; who 
had been discharged from each in turn, for he was 
wholly vile; who had alienated all his old em- 
ployers, so that they passed him in the street as 
if he were a dog, and all his old comrades, so that 
they shunned him as they would a creditor. 

Not long before, a ship from Peru had brought 
an influenza, and it now raged in the island, and 
particularly in Papeete. From all round the 
purao arose and fell a dismal sound of men cough- 
ing, and strangling as they coughed. The sick 
natives, with the islander's impatience of a touch 
of fever, had crawled from their houses to be 
cool, and, squatting on the shore or on the 
beached canoes, painfully expected the new day. 
Even as the crowing of cocks goes about the 

12 



NIGHT ON THE BEACH 

country in the night from farm to farm, accesses 
of coughing arose, and spread, and died in the 
distance, and sprang up again. Each miserable 
shiverer caught the suggestion from his neigh- 
bour, was torn for some minutes by that cruel 
ecstasy, and left spent and without voice or cour- 
age when it passed. If a man had pity to spend, 
Papeete Beach, on that cold night and in that 
infected season, was a place to spend it on. And 
of all the sufferers, perhaps the least deserving, 
but surely the most pitiable, was the London 
clerk. He was used to another life, to houses, 
beds, nursing, and the dainties of the sick-room; 
he lay here now, in the cold open, exposed to the 
gusting of the wind, and with an empty belly. 
He was besides infirm ; the disease shook him to 
the vitals; and his companions watched his en- 
durance with surprise. A profound commisera- 
tion filled them, and contended with and con- 
quered their abhorrence. The disgust attendant 
on so ugly a sickness magnified this dislike; at the 
same time, and with more than compensating 
strength, shame for a sentiment so inhuman 
bound them the more straitly to his service; and 
even the evil they knew of him swelled their 
solicitude, for the thought of death is always 
least supportable when it draws near to the 
merely sensual and selfish. Sometimes they held 
him up; sometimes, with mistaken helpfulness, 
they beat him between the shoulders; and when 
the poor wretch lay back, ghastly and spent, af- 

13 



THE EBB-TIDE 

ter a paroxysm of coughing, they would some- 
times peer into his face, doubtfully exploring it 
for any mark of life. There is no one but has 
some virtue ; that of the clerk was courage, and 
he would make haste to reassure them in a pleas- 
antry not always decent. 

"I'm all right, pals," he gasped once; "this is 
the thing to strengthen the muscles of the 
larynx." 

"Well, you take the cake!" cried the captain. 

"Oh, I'm good-plucked enough," pursued the 
sufferer, with a broken utterance; "but it do 
seem bloomin' 'ard to me that I should be the 
only party to be down with this form of vice, 
and the only one to do the funny business. I 
think one of you other parties might walk up. 
Tell a fellow something." 

"The trouble is, we've nothing to tell, my 
son," returned the captain. 

" I'll tell you, if you like, what I was thinking," 
said Herrick. 

"Tell us anything," said the clerk. "I only 
want to be reminded that I ain't dead." 

Herrick took up his parable, lying on his face, 
and speaking slowly and scarce above his breath; 
not like a man who has anything to say, but like 
one talking against time. 

"Well, I was thinking this," he began. "I 
was thinking I lay on Papeete Beach one night, 
all moon and squalls and fellows coughing, 
and I was cold and hungry, and down in the 

14 



NIGHT ON THE BEACH 

mouth, and was about ninety years of age, and 
had spent about two hundred and twenty of 
them on Papeete Beach. And I was thinking I 
wished I had a ring to rub, or had a fairy god- 
mother, or could raise Beelzebub. And I was 
trying to remember how you did it. I knew you 
made a ring of skulls, for I had seen that in the 
Freischutz; and that you took off your coat 
and turned up your sleeves, for I had seen Formes 
do that when he was playing Kaspar, and you 
could see (by the way he went about it) it was a 
business he had studied; and that you ought to 
have something to kick up a smoke and a bad 
smell, I daresay a cigar might do, and that 
you ought to say the Lord's Prayer backward. 
Well, I wondered if I could do that; it seemed 
rather a feat, you see. And then I wondered if 
I could say it forward, and I thought I did. Well, 
no sooner had I got to 'world without end,' than 
I saw an old man in a pariu, and with a mat un- 
der his arm, come along the beach from the town. 
He was rather a hard-favoured old party, and he 
limped and crippled, and all the time he kept 
coughing. At first I didn't cotton to his looks, 
I thought, and then I got sorry for the old soul 
because he coughed so hard. I remembered we 
had some of that cough mixture the American 
consul gave the captain for Hay. It never did 
Hay a ha'p'orth of service, but I thought it might 
do the old gentleman's business for him, and 
stood up. * Yorana! ' says I. ' Yorana! ' says he. 

15 



THE EBB-TIDE 

'Look here,' I said, 'I've got some first-rate 
stuff in a bottle; it'll fix your cough, savvy? 
Harry my, 1 and I'll measure you out a table- 
spoonful in the palm of my hand, for all our plate 
is at the banker's.' So I thought the old party 
came up, and the nearer he came, the less I took 
to him. But I had passed my word, you see." 

"Wot is this bloomin' drivel? " interrupted the 
clerk. " It's like the rot there is in tracts." 

"It's a story. I used to tell them to the kids 
at home," said Herrick. "If it bores you, I'll 
drop it." 

" Oh, cut along! " returned the sick man irrita- 
bly. "It's better than nothing." 

"Well," continued Herrick, "I had no sooner 
given him the cough mixture than he seemed to 
straighten up and change, and I saw he wasn't 
a Tahitian after all, but some kind of an Arab, 
and had a long beard on his chin. 'One good 
turn deserves another,' says he. 'I am a magi- 
cian out of the Arabian Nights, and this mat that 
I have under my arm is the original carpet of 
Mohammed Ben Somebody-or-other. Say the 
word and you can have a cruise upon the carpet.' 
'You don't mean to say this is the Travelling 
Carpet?' I cried. 'You bet I do,' said he. 
'You've been to America since last I read the 
Arabian Nights,' said I, a little suspicious. 'I 
should think so,' said he. ' Been everywhere. A 
man with a carpet like this isn't going to moulder 

1 Come here. 

16 



NIGHT ON THE BEACH 

in a semi-detached villa/ Well, that struck me 
as reasonable. 'All right,' I said, 'and do you 
mean to tell me I can get on that carpet and go 
straight to London, England? ' I said, ' London, 
England,' captain, because he seemed to have 
been so long in your part of the world. ' In the 
crack of a whip,' said he. I figured up the time. 
What is the difference between Papeete and 
London, captain?" 

"Taking Greenwich and Point Venus, nine 
hours, odd minutes and seconds," replied the 
mariner. 

"Well, that's about what I made it," resumed 
Herrick; "about nine hours. Calling this three 
in the morning, I made out I would drop into 
London about noon, and the idea tickled me 
immensely. 'There's only one bother,' I said, 
'I haven't a copper cent. It would be a pity 
to go to London and not buy the morning Stand- 
ard.' 'Ohl' said he, 'you don't realise the con- 
veniences of this carpet. You see this pocket? 
You've only got to stick your hand in, and you 
pull it out filled with sovereigns.' ' 

"Double-eagles, wasn't it?" inquired the cap- 
tain. 

"That was what it was!" cried Herrick. "I 
thought they seemed unusually big, and I re- 
member now I had to go to the money changers 
at Charing Cross and get English silver." 

"Oh, you went there?" said the clerk. "Wot 
did you do? Bet you had a B.-and-S. ! " 

17 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Well, you see, it was just as the old boy said, 
like the cut of a whip," said Herrick. "The one 
minute I was here on the beach at three in the 
morning, the next I was in front of the Golden 
Cross at midday. At first I was dazzled, and 
covered my eyes, and there didn't seem the 
smallest change; the roar of the Strand and the 
roar of the reef were like the same; hark to it 
now, and you can hear the cabs and the 'buses 
rolling and the streets resound! And then at 
last I would look about, and there was the old 
place and no mistake, with the statues in the 
square, and St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, and the 
bobbies, and the sparrows, and the hacks; and 
I can't tell you what I felt like. I felt like cry- 
ing, I believe, or dancing, or jumping clean over 
the Nelson column. I was like a fellow caught 
up out of hell and flung down into the dandiest 
part of heaven. Then I spotted for a hansom 
with a spanking horse. 'A shilling for yourself 
if you're there in twenty minutes,' said I to the 
jarvey. He went a good pace, though, of course, 
it was a trifle to the carpet; and in nineteen min- 
utes and a half I was at the door." 

"What door?" asked the captain. 

"Oh, a house I know of," returned Herrick. 

"Bet it was a public-house!" cried the clerk 
only these were not his words. "And w'y 
didn't you take the carpet there instead of trun- 
dling in a growler?" 

"I didn't want to startle a quiet street," said 

18 



NIGHT ON THE BEACH 

the narrator. "Bad form. And besides, it was 
a hansom." 

"Well, and what did you do next?" inquired 
the captain. 

"Oh, I went in," said Herrick. 

"The old folks?" asked the captain. 

"That's about it," said the other, chewing a 
grass. 

"Well, I think you are about the poorest 'and 
at a yarn!" cried the clerk. "Crikey, it's like 
Ministering Children. I can tell you there 
would be more beer and skittles about my little 
jaunt. I would go and have a B.-and-S. for 
luck. Then I would get a big ulster with astra- 
can fur, and take my cane, and do the la-de-da 
down Piccadilly. Then I would go to a slap-up 
restaurant, and have green peas and a bottle 
of fizz and a chump chop Oh! and I forgot, I'd 
'ave some devilled w'itebait first, and green 
gooseberry tart, and 'ot coffee, and some of that 
form of vice in big bottles with a seal Benedic- 
tine that's the bloomin' nyme! Then I'd drop 
into a theatre, and pal on with some chappies, 
and do the dancing-rooms and bars and that, 
and wouldn't go 'ome till morning, till d'ylight 
doth appear. And the next d'y I'd 'ave water- 
cresses, 'am, muffin, and fresh butter; wouldn't 
I just? Oh, my!" 

The clerk was interrupted by a fresh attack of 
coughing. 

"Well, now, I'U tell you what I would do," 
19 



THE EBB-TIDE 

said the captain. "I would have none of your 
fancy rigs with the man driving from the mizzen 
cross-trees, but a plain fore-and-aft hack cab of 
the highest registered tonnage. First of all, I 
would bring up at the market and get a turkey 
and a sucking-pig. Then I'd go to a wine-mer- 
chant's and get a dozen of champagne and a 
dozen of some sweet wine, rich and sticky and 
strong, something in the port or Madeira line, 
the best in the store. Then I'd bear up for a 
toy-store, and lay out twenty dollars in assorted 
toys for the picaninnies; and then to a confec- 
tioner's and take cakes and pies and fancy 
bread, and that stuff with the plums in it; and 
then to a news-agency, and buy all the papers 
all the picture ones for the kids, and all the story 
papers for the old girl: about the Earl discovering 
himself to Anna-Mariar, and the escape of the 
Lady Maude from the private madhouse; and 
then I'd tell the fellow to drive home." 

"There ought to be some syrup for the kids," 
suggested Herrick. "They like syrup." 

"Yes, syrup for the kids, red syrup at that I" 
said the captain. "And those things they pull 
at and go pop, and have measly poetry inside. 
And then I tell you we'd have a Thanksgiv- 
ing Day and Christmas-tree combined. Great 
Scott, but I would like to see the kids! I guess 
they would light right out of the house when 
they saw daddy driving up. My little Adar ' ' 

The captain stopped sharply. 
20 



NIGHT ON THE BEACH 

"Well, keep it up," said the clerk. 

"The damned thing is, I don't know if they 
aren't starving!" cried the captain. 

"They can't be worse off than we are, and 
that's one comfort," returned the clerk. "I de- 
fy the devil to make me worse off." 

It seemed as if the devil heard him. The 
light of the moon had been some time cut off, 
and they had talked in darkness. Now there 
was heard a roar, which drew impetuously near- 
er; the face of the lagoon was seen to whiten, and, 
before they had staggered to their feet, a squall 
burst in rain upon the outcasts. The rage and 
volume of that avalanche, one must have lived 
in the tropics to conceive ; a man panted in its as- 
sault as he might pant under a shower-bath; and 
the world seemed whelmed in night and water. 

They felt, groping for their usual shelter it 
might be almost called their home in the old 
calaboose; came drenched into its empty cham- 
bers, and lay down, three sops of humanity, on 
the cold coral floors. And presently, when the 
squall was overpassed, the others could hear in 
the darkness the chattering of the clerk's teeth. 

"I say, you fellows," he wailed, "for God's 
sake, lie up and try to warm me. I'm blymed if 
I don't think I'll die else!" 

So the three crept together into one wet mass, 
and lay until day came, shivering and dozing 
off, and continually reawakened to wretched- 
ness by the coughing of the clerk. 

21 



CHAPTER II 

MORNING ON THE BEACH THE 
THREE LETTERS 



clouds were all fled, the beauty of the 
A tropic day was spread upon Papeete; and 
the wall of breaking seas upon the reef, and the 
palms upon the islet, already trembled in the 
heat. A French man-of-war was going out that 
morning, homeward bound; she lay in the mid- 
dle distance of the port, an ant-heap for activity. 
In the night a schooner had come in, and now lay 
far out, hard by the passage; and the yellow flag, 
the emblem of pestilence, flew on her. From up 
the coast a long procession of canoes headed 
round the point and toward the market, bright 
as a scarf with the many-coloured clothing of the 
natives and the piles of fruit. But not even the 
beauty and the welcome warmth of the morning, 
not even these naval movements so interesting 
to sailors and to idlers, could engage the atten- 
tion of the outcasts. They were still cold at 
heart, their mouths sour from the want of sleep, 
their steps rambling from the lack of food; and 
they strung like lame geese along the beach in a 

22 



MORNING ON THE BEACH 

disheartened silence. It was towards the town 
they moved; towards the town whence smoke 
arose, where happier folk were breakfasting ; and 
as they went, their hungry eyes were upon all 
sides, but they were only scouting for a meal. 

A small and dingy schooner lay snug against 
the quay, with which it was connected by a 
plank. On the forward deck, under a spot of 
awning, five Kanakas, who made up the crew, 
were squatted round a basin of fried feis 1 and 
drinking coffee from tin mugs. 

"Eight bells; knock off for breakfast!" cried 
the captain with a miserable heartiness. " Never 
tried this craft before; positively my first ap- 
pearance; guess I'll draw a bumper house." 

He came close up to where the plank rested 
on the grassy quay, turned his back upon the 
schooner, and began to whistle that lively air, 
"The Irish Washerwoman." It caught the ears 
of the Kanaka seamen like a preconcerted signal. 
With one accord they looked up from their meal 
and crowded to the ship's side, fei in hand, and 
munching as they looked. Even as a poor brown 
Pyrenean bear dances in the streets of English 
towns under his master's baton, even so, but 
with how much more of spirit and precision, the 
captain footed it in time to his own whistling, 
and his long morning shadow capered beyond 
him on the grass. The Kanakas smiled on the 
performance; Herrick looked on heavy-eyed, 

1 Fei is the hill banana. 

23 



THE EBB-TIDE 

hunger for the moment conquering all sense of 
shame; and a little farther off, but still hard by, 
the clerk was torn by the seven devils of the 
influenza. 

The captain stopped suddenly, appeared to 
perceive his audience for the first time, and rep- 
resented the part of a man surprised in a private 
hour of pleasure. 

"Hello! "said he. 

The Kanakas clapped hands and called upon 
him to go on. 

"No, sir!" said the captain. "No eat, no 
dance. Savvy?" 

"Poor old man!" returned one of the crew. 
"Him no eat?" 

"Lord, no!" said the captain. "Like-um too 
much eat. No got." 

"All right. Me got," said the sailor. "You 
tome here. Plenty toffee, plenty fei. Nutha 
man him tome too." 

"I guess we'll drop right in," observed the 
captain; and he and his companions hastened up 
the plank. They were welcomed on board with 
the shaking of hands; place was made for them 
about the basin; a sticky demijohn of molasses 
was added to the feast in honour of company, and 
an accordion brought from the forecastle, and 
significantly laid by the performer's side. 

"Ariana" 2 said he, lightly touching the instru- 
ment as he spoke ; and he fell to on a long savoury 

*By and by. 

24 



MORNING ON THE BEACH 

fei, made an end of it, raised his mug of coffee, 
and nodded across at the spokesman of the crew. 
"Here's your health, old man. You're a credit 
to the South Pacific," said he. 

With the unsightly greed of hounds they glut- 
ted themselves with the hot food and coffee; and 
even the clerk revived and the colour deepened 
in his eyes. The kettle was drained, the basin 
cleaned; their entertainers, who had waited on 
their wants throughout with the pleased hospital- 
ity of Polynesians, made haste to bring forward 
a dessert of island tobacco and rolls of pandanus 
leaf to serve as paper, and presently all sat about 
the dishes, puffing like Indian sachems. 

"When a man 'as breakfast every day, he 
don't know wot it is," observed the clerk. 

"The next point is dinner," said Herrick; and 
then with a passionate utterance: "I wish to 
God I was a Kanaka!" 

"There's one thing sure," said the captain. 
" I'm about desperate. I'd rather hang than rot 
here much longer." And with the word he took 
the accordion and struck up "Home, Sweet 
Home." 

"Oh, drop that!" cried Herrick. "I can't 
stand that." 

"No more can I," said the captain. "I've 
got to play something though; got to pay the 
shot, my son." And he struck up "John 
Brown'sBody " in a fine, sweet baritone ; " Dandy 
Jim of Carolina" came next; "Rosin the Bow," 

25 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and "The Beauti- 
ful Land " followed. The captain was paying his 
shot with usury, as he had done many a time 
before; many a meal had he bought with the 
same currency from the melodious-minded na- 
tives, always, as now, to their delight. 

He was in the middle of "Fifteen Dollars in 
the Inside Pocket," singing with dogged energy, 
for the task went sore against the grain, when a 
sensation was suddenly to be observed among 
the crew. 

"Tapena Tom harry my," 1 said the spokes- 
man, pointing. 

And the three beach-combers, following his in- 
dication, saw the figure of a man in pyjama 
trousers and a white jumper approaching briskly 
from the town. 

"That's Tapena Tom, is it?" said the captain, 
pausing in his music. "I don't seem to place 
the brute." 

"We'd better cut," said the clerk. " 'E's no 
good." 

"Well," said the musician deliberately, "one 
can't most generally always tell. I'll try it on, 
I guess. Music has charms to soothe the savage 
Tapena, boys. We might strike it rich; it might 
amount to iced punch in the cabin." 

"Hiced punch? Oh, my!" said the clerk. 
"Give him something 'ot, captain. 'Way down 
the Swanee River'; try that." 

Captain Tom is coming. 

26 



MORNING ON THE BEACH 

"No, sir! Looks Scots," said the captain; 
and he struck, for his life, into "Auld Lang 
Syne." 

Captain Tom continued to approach with the 
same business-like alacrity ; no change was to be 
perceived in his bearded face as he came swing- 
ing up the plank; he did not even turn his eyes 
on the performer. 

"We twa hae paidled in the burn 
Frae morning tide till dine," 

went the song. 

Captain Tom had a parcel under his arm, 
which he laid on the house-roof, and then, turn- 
ing suddenly to the strangers, "Here, you!" he 
beUowed, "be off out of that!" 

The clerk and Herrick stood not on the order 
of their going, but fled incontinently by the 
plank. The performer, on the other hand, flung 
down the instrument and rose to his full height 
slowly. 

"What's that you say?" he said. "I've half 
a mind to give you a lesson in civility." 

"You set up any more of your gab to me," 
returned the Scotsman, "and I'll show ye the 
wrong side of a jyle. I've heard tell of the 
three of ye. Ye're not long for here, I can tell 
ye that. The Goavernment has then* eyes upon 
ye. They make shoart work of damned beach- 
combers, I'll say that for the French." 

"You wait till I catch you off your ship!" 
27 



THE EBB-TIDE 

cried the captain; and then turning to the crew, 
" Good-bye, you fellows! " he said. " You're gen- 
tlemen, anyway! The worst nigger among you 
would look better upon a quarter-deck than that 
filthy Scotsman." 

Captain Tom scorned to reply. He watched 
with a hard smile the departure of his guests, and 
as soon as the last foot was off the plank, turned 
to the hands to work cargo. 

The beach-combers beat their inglorious re- 
treat along the shore; Herrick first, his face dark 
with blood, his knees trembling under him with 
the hysteria of rage. Presently, under the same 
purao where they had shivered the night before, 
he cast himself down, and groaned aloud, and 
ground his face into the sand. 

"Don't speak to me, don't speak to me. I 
can't stand it!" broke from him. 

The other two stood over him, perplexed. 

"Wot can't he stand now?" said the clerk. 
' 'Asn't he 'ad a meal? I'm lickin' my lips." 

Herrick reared up his wild eyes and burning 
face. "I can't beg," he screamed, and again 
threw himself prone. 

"This thing's got to come to an end," said the 
captain, with an intake of the breath. 

" Looks like signs of an end, don't it? " sneered 
the clerk. 

"He's not so far from it, and don't you de- 
ceive yourself," replied the captain. "Well," he 
added in a livelier voice, "you fellows hang on 

28 



MORNING ON THE BEACH 

here, and I'll go and interview my representa- 
tive." 

Whereupon he turned on his heel, and set off 
at a swinging sailor's walk towards Papeete. 

It was some half-hour later when he returned. 
The clerk was dozing with his back against a 
tree; Herrick still lay where he had flung him- 
self; nothing showed whether he slept or waked. 

"See, boys!" cried the captain, with that arti- 
ficial heartiness of his which was at times so pain- 
ful, "here's a new idea." And he produced 
note-paper, stamped envelopes, and pencils, 
three of each. "We can all write home by the 
mail brigantine. The consul says I can come 
over to his place and ink up the addresses." 

" Well, that's a start, too," said the clerk. " I 
never thought of that." 

"It was that yarning last night about going 
home that put me up to it," said the captain. 

"Well, 'and over," said the clerk. "I'll have 
a shy." And he retired a little distance to the 
shade of a canoe. 

The others remained under the purao. Now 
they would write a word or two, now scribble it 
out ; now they would sit biting at the pencil-end 
and staring seaward; now their eyes would rest 
on the clerk where he sat propped on the canoe, 
leering and coughing, his pencil racing glibly on 
the paper. 

"I can't do it," said Herrick, suddenly. "I 
haven't got the heart." 

29 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"See here," said the captain, speaking with 
unwonted gravity. "It may be hard to write, 
and to write lies at that, and God knows it is; 
but it's the square thing. It don't cost anything 
to say you're well and happy, and sorry you can't 
make a remittance this mail; and if you don't, 
I'll tell you what I think it is, I think it's about 
the high-water mark of being a brute beast." 

" It's easy to talk," said Herrick. "You don't 
seem to have written much yourself, I notice." 

"What do you bring in me forP" broke from 
the captain. His voice was indeed scarce raised 
above a whisper, but emotion clanged in it. 
"What do you know about me? If you had 
commanded the finest barque that ever sailed 
from Portland, Maine; if you had been drunk in 
your berth when she struck the breakers in Four- 
teen Island Group, and hadn't had the wit to 
stay there and drown, but come on deck, and 
given drunken orders, and lost six lives, I could 
understand your talking then! There," he said 
more quietly, "that's my yarn, and now you 
know it. It's a pretty one for the father of a 
family. Five men and a woman murdered. 
Yes, there was a woman on board, and hadn't 
no business to be either. Guess I sent her to 
hell, if there is such a place. I never dared go 
home again; and the wife and the little ones went 
to England to her father's place. I don't know 
what's come to them," he added, with a bitter 
shrug. 

30 



MORNING ON THE BEACH 

"Thank you, captain," said Herrick. "I 
never liked you better." 

They shook hands, short and hard, with eyes 
averted, tenderness swelling in their bosoms. 

"Now, boys! to work again at lying!" said the 
captain. 

"I'll give my father up," returned Herrick, 
with a writhen smile. "I'll try my sweetheart, 
instead, for a change of evils." 

And here is what he wrote: 



"EMMA, I have scratched out the beginning to my father, for 
I think I can write more easily to you. This is my last farewell 
to all; the last you will ever hear or see of an unworthy friend 
and son. I have failed in life. I am quite broken down and 
disgraced. I pass under a false name. You will have to tell 
my father that, with all your kindness. It is my own fault. I 
know, had I chosen, that I might have done well; and yet, I 
swear to you, I tried to choose. I could not bear that you should 
think I did not try. For I loved you all; you must never doubt 
me hi that, you least of all. I have always unceasingly loved; 
but what was my love worth, and what was I worth? I had 
not the manhood of a common clerk. I could not work to earn 
you. I have lost you now, and for your sake I could be glad of 
it. When you first came to my father's house do you remember 
those days? I want you to you saw the best of me then, all 
that was good in me. Do you remember the day I took your 
hand and would not let it go? And the day on Battersea Bridge, 
when we were looking at a barge, and I began to tell you one of 
my silly stories, and broke off to say I loved you? That was the 
beginning, and now here is the end. When you have read this 
letter, you will go round and kiss them all good-bye my father 
and mother, and the children, one by one, and poor uncle; and 
tell them all to forget me, and forget me yourself. Turn the 
key in the door; let no thought of me return; be done with the 
poor ghost that pretended he was a man and stole your love. 

31 



THE EBB-TIDE 

Scorn of myself grinds in me as I write. I should tell you I am 
well and happy and want for nothing. I do not exactly make 
money, or I should send a remittance; but I am well cared for, 
have friends, live in a beautiful place and climate, such as we 
have dreamed of together, and no pity need be wasted on me. 
In such places, you understand, it is easy to live, and live well, 
but often hard to make sixpence in money. Explain this to my 
father, he will understand. I have no more to say; only linger, 
going out, like an unwilling guest. God in heaven bless you I 
Think of me, at the last, here, on a bright beach, the sky and sea 
immoderately blue, and the great breakers roaring outside on a 
barrier-reef, where a little isle sits green with palms. I am well 
and strong. It is a more pleasant way to die than if you were 
crowding about me on a sick-bed. And yet I am dying. This 
is my last kiss. Forgive, forget, the unworthy." 

So far he had written ; his paper was all filled, 
when there returned a memory of evenings at 
the piano, and that song, the masterpiece of 
love, in which so many have found the expression 
of their dearest thoughts: "Einst, Wunder!" 
he added. More was not required ; he knew that, 
in his love's heart, the context would spring up, 
escorted with fair images and harmony ; of how 
all through life her name should tremble in his 
ears, her name be everywhere repeated in the 
sounds of nature ; and when death came and he 
lay dissolved, her memory linger and thrill among 
his elements. 

"Once, wonder I once from the ashes of my heart 
Arose a blossom " 

Herrick and the captain finished their letter 
about the same time; each was breathing deep, 

32 



MORNING ON THE BEACH 

and their eyes met and were averted as they 
closed the envelopes. 

"Sorry I write so big," said the captain, gruff- 
ly. "Came all of a rush, when it did come." 

"Same here," said Herrick. "I could have 
done with a ream when I got started; but it's 
long enough for all the good I had to say." 

They were still at the addresses when the clerk 
strolled up, smirking, and twirling his envelope, 
like a man well pleased. He looked over Her- 
rick's shoulder. 

"Hullo," he said, "you ain't writing 'ome." 

"I am, though," said Herrick. "She lives 
with my father. Oh, I see what you mean," he 
added. "My real name is Herrick. No more 
Hay" they had both used the same alias "no 
more Hay than yours, I daresay." 

"Clean bowled in the middle stump," laughed 
the clerk. "My name's 'Uish, if you want to 
know. Everybody has a false nyme in the 
Pacific. Lay you five to three the captain 
'as." 

"So I have, too," replied the captain, "and 
I've never told my own since the day I tore the 
title-page out of my Bowditch and flung the 
damned thing into the sea. But I'll tell it to 
you, boys. John Davis is my name. I'm Davis 
of the Sea Ranger." 

"Dooce you are!" said Huish. "And what 
was she, a pirate or a slyver?" 

"She was the fastest barque out of Portland, 
33 



THE EBB-TIDE 

Maine," replied the captain; "and for the way I 
lost her, I might as well have bored a hole in her 
side with an auger." 

"Oh, you lost her, did you?" said the clerk. 
" 'Ope she was insured." 

No answer being returned to this sally, Huish, 
still brimming over with vanity and conversa- 
tion, struck into another subject. 

" I've a good mind to read you my letter," said 
he. " I've a good fist with a pen when I choose, 
and this is a prime lark. She was a barmaid I 
ran across in Northampton; she was a spanking 
fine piece, no end of style; and we cottoned at 
first sight like parties in the play. I suppose I 
spent the cliynge of a fiver on that girl. Well, 
I 'appened to remember her nyme, so I wrote to 
her, and told her 'ow I had got rich, and married 
a queen in the Hislands, and lived in a bloom- 
ing palace. Such a sight of crammers I I must 
read you one bit about my opening the nig- 
ger parliament in a cocked 'at. It's really 
prime." 

The captain jumped to his feet. "That's 
what you did with the paper that I went and 
begged for you?" he roared. 

It was perhaps lucky for Huish it was surely 
in the end unfortunate for all that he was seized 
just then by one of his prostrating accesses of 
cough; his comrades would have else deserted 
him, so bitter was their resentment. When the 
fit had passed, the clerk reached out his hand, 

34 



MORNING ON THE BEACH 

picked up the letter, which had fallen to the 
earth, and tore it into fragments, stamp and 
all. 

"Does that satisfy you?" he asked sullenly. 

"We'll say no more about it," replied Davis. 



35 



CHAPTER III 

THE OLD CALABOOSE DESTINY AT 
THE DOOR 

THE old calaboose, in which the waifs had 
so long harboured, is a low, rectangular en- 
closure of building, at the corner of a shady 
western avenue, and a little townward of the 
British consulate. Within was a grassy court, 
littered with wreckage and the traces of vagrant 
occupation. Six or seven cells opened from the 
court; the doors, that had once been locked on 
mutinous whalermen, rotting before them in the 
grass. No mark remained of their old destina- 
tion, except the rusty bars upon the windows. 

The floor of one of the cells had been little 
cleared; a bucket (the last remaining piece of 
furniture of the three caitiffs) stood full of water 
by the door, a half cocoa-nut shell beside it for a 
drinking-cup; and on some ragged ends of mat 
Huish sprawled asleep, his mouth open, his face 
deathly. The glow of the tropic afternoon, the 
green of sun-bright foliage, stared into that 
shady place through door and window; and Her- 
rick, pacing to and fro on the coral floor, some- 

36 



THE OLD CALABOOSE 

times paused, and laved his face and neck with 
tepid water from the bucket. His long arrears 
of suffering, the night's vigil, the insults of the 
morning, and the harrowing business of the 
letter, had strung him to that point when pain 
is almost pleasure, time shrinks to a mere point, 
and death and life appear indifferent. To and 
fro he paced like a caged brute, his mind whirling 
through the universe of thought and memory; 
his eyes, as he went, skimming the legends on the 
wall. The crumbling whitewash was all full of 
them, Tahitian names, and French, and Eng- 
lish, and rude sketches of ships under sail, and 
men at fisticuffs. 

It came to him of a sudden that he too must 
leave upon these walls the memorial of his pas- 
sage. He paused before a clean space, took the 
pencil out, and pondered. Vanity, so hard to 
dislodge, awoke in him. We call it vanity, at 
least; perhaps unjustly. Rather it was the bare 
sense of his existence prompted him; the sense 
of his life, the one thing wonderful, to which he 
scarce clung with a finger. From his jarred 
nerves there came a strong sentiment of coming 
change; whether good or ill, he could not say: 
change, he knew no more ; change, with inscru- 
table, veiled face, approaching noiseless. With 
the feeling came the vision of a concert-room, the 
rich hues of instruments, the silent audience, and 
the loud voice of the symphony. "Destiny 
knocking at the door," he thought; drew a stave 

37 



THE EBB-TIDE 

on the plaster, and wrote in the famous phrase 
from the Fifth Symphony. "So," thought he, 
"they will know that I loved music and had 
classical taste. They? He, I suppose; the un- 
known, kindred spirit that shall come some day 
and read my memor querela. Ha, he shall have 
Latin too!" And he added: "terque quaterque 
beati queis ante ora patrum." 

He turned again to his uneasy pacing, but now 
with an irrational and supporting sense of duty 
done. He had dug his grave that morning; now 
he nad carved his epitaph; the folds of the toga 
were composed, why should he delay the insignif- 
icant trifle that remained to do? He paused 
and looked long in the face of the sleeping Huish, 
drinking disenchantment and distaste of life. He 
nauseated himself with that vile countenance. 
Could the thing continue? What bound him 
now? Had he no rights? Only the obligation 
to go on, without discharge or furlough, bearing 
the unbearable? Ich trage unertragliches; the 
quotation rose in his mind. He repeated the 
whole piece, one of the most perfect of the most 
perfect of poets; and a phrase struck him like a 
blow : Du, stolzes Herz, du hast esja gewollt. Where 
was the pride of his heart ? And he raged against 
himself, as a man bites on a sore tooth, in a heady 
sensuality of scorn. "I have no pride, I have 
no heart, no manhood," he thought, "or why 
should I prolong a life more shameful than the 
gallows? Or why should I have fallen to it? No 

38 



THE OLD CALABOOSE 

pride, no capacity, no force. Not even a bandit. 
And to be starving here with worse than banditti 
with this trivial hell-hound ! " His rage against 
his comrade rose and flooded him, and he shook 
a trembling fist at the sleeper. 

A swift step was audible. The captain ap- 
peared upon the threshold of the cell, panting 
and flushed, and with a foolish face of happiness. 
In his arms he carried a loaf of bread and bottles 
of beer; the pockets of his coat were bulging with 
cigars. He rolled his treasures on the floor, 
grasped Herrick by both hands, and crowed with 
laughter. 

' ' Broach the beer ! " he shouted. ' ' Broach the 
beer, and glory hallelujah!" 

"Beer?" repeated Huish, struggling to his 
feet. 

"Beer it is I" cried Davis. "Beer, and plenty 
of it. Any number of persons can use it (like 
Lyon's tooth-tablet) with perfect propriety and 
neatness. Who's to officiate?" 

"Leave me alone for that," said the clerk. He 
knocked the necks off with a lump of coral, and 
each drank in succession from the shell. 

"Have a weed?" said Davis. "It's all in the 
bill." 

"What is up?" asked Herrick. 

The captain fell suddenly grave. "I'm coming 
to that," said he. "I want to speak with Her- 
rick here. You, Hay or Huish, or whatever 
your name is you take a weed and the other 

39 



THE EBB-TIDE 

bottle, and go and see how the wind is down by 
the purao. I'll call you when you're wanted." 

" Hey ? Secrets? That ain't the ticket," said 
Huish. 

"Look here, my son," said the captain, "this 
is business, and don't you make any mistake 
about it. If you're going to make trouble, you 
can have it in your own way and stop right here. 
Only get the thing right; if Herrick and I go, we 
take the beer. Savvy? " 

"Oh, I don't want to shove my oar in," re- 
turned Huish. " I'll cut right enough. Give me 
the swipes. You can jaw till you're blue in the 
face, for what I care. I don't think it's the 
friendly touch; that's all." And he shambled, 
grumbling, out of the cell into the staring sun. 

The captain watched him clear of the court- 
yard, then turned to Herrick. 

"What is it?" asked Herrick, thickly. 

" I'll tell you," said Davis. " I want to consult 
you. It's a chance we've got. What's that?" 
he cried, pointing to the music on the wall. 

"What?" said the other. "Oh, that? It's 
music ; it's a phrase of Beethoven's I was writing 
up. It means destiny knocking at the door." 

" Does it? " said the captain, rather low, and he 
went near and studied the inscription; "and this 
French?" he asked, pointing to the Latin. 

"Oh, it just means I should have been luckier 
if I had died at home," returned Herrick impa- 
tiently. "What is this business?" 

40 



THE OLD CALABOOSE 

"Destiny knocking at the door," repeated the 
captain; and then, looking over his shoulder, 
"Well, Mr. Herrick, that's about what it comes 
to," he added. 

' ' What do you mean ? Explain yourself, ' ' said 
Herrick. 

But the captain was again staring at the music. 
"About how long ago since you wrote up this 
truck?" he asked. 

"What does it matter?" exclaimed Herrick. 
"I daresay half an hour." 

"My God, it's strange ! " cried Davis. " There's 
some men would call that accidental; not me. 
That " and he drew his thick finger under the 
music "that's what I call Providence." 

"You said we had a chance," said Herrick. 

"Yes, sir!" said the captain, wheeling sudden- 
ly face to face with his companion. "I did so. 
If you're the man I take you for, we have a 
chance." 

" I don't know what you take me for," was the 
reply. "You can scarce take me too low." 

"Shake hands, Mr. Herrick," said the captain. 
" I know you. You're a gentleman and a man of 
spirit. I didn't want to speak before that bum- 
mer there; you'll see why. But to you I'll rip it 
right out. I got a ship." 

" A ship? " cried Herrick. " What ship? " 

"That schooner we saw this morning off the 
passage." 

"The schooner with the hospital flag?" 
41 



THE EBB-TIDE 

" That's the hooker," said Davis. " She's the 
Farallone, hundred and sixty tons register, out 
of 'Frisco for Sydney, in California champagne. 
Captain, mate, and one hand all died of small- 
pox, same as they had round in the Paumotus, 
I guess. Captain and mate were the only white 
men; all the hands Kanakas; seems a queer kind 
of outfit from a Christian port. Three of them 
left and a cook; didn't know where they were; I 
can't think where they were either, if you come 
to that ; Wiseman must have been on the booze, 
I guess, to sail the course he did. However, 
there he was, dead ; and here were the Kanakas 
as good as lost. They bummed around at sea 
like the babes in the wood, and tumbled end- 
on upon Tahiti. The consul here took charge. 
He offered the berth to Williams; Williams had 
never had the smallpox and backed down. That 
was when I came in for the letter-paper. I 
thought there was something up when the con- 
sul asked me to look in again ; but I never let on 
to you fellows, so's you'd not be disappointed. 
Consul tried M'Neil; scared of smallpox. He 
tried Capirati, that Corsican, and Leblue, or 
whatever his name is; wouldn't lay a hand on 
it; all too fond of their sweet lives. Last of all, 
when there wasn't nobody else left to offer it to, 
he offers it to me. ' Brown, will you ship captain 
and take her to Sydney?' says he. 'Let me 
choose my own mate and another white hand,' 
says I, 'for I don't hold with this Kanaka crew 

42 



THE OLD CALABOOSE 

racket; give us all two months' advance to get 
our clothes and instruments out of pawn, and 
I'll take stock to-night, fill up stores, and get 
to sea to-morrow before dark!' That's what 
I said. 'That's good enough,' says the con- 
sul; *and you can count yourself damned 
lucky, Brown,' says he. And he said it pretty 
meaningful-appearing, too. However, that's all 
one now. I'll ship Huish before the mast, of 
course I'll let him berth aft; and I'll ship you 
mate at seventy-five dollars and two months' 
advance." 

"Me mate? Why, I'm a landsman I" cried 
Herrick. 

"Guess you've got to learn," said the captain. 
"You don't fancy I'm going to skip and leave 
you rotting on the beach, perhaps? I'm not that 
sort, old man. And you're handy, anyway; I've 
been shipmates with worse." 

"God knows I can't refuse," said Herrick. 
"God knows I thank you from my heart." 

"That's all right," said the captain. "But it 
ain't all." He turned aside to light a cigar. 

"What else is there?" asked the other, with a 
pang of indefinable alarm. 

"I'm coming to that," said Davis, and then 
paused a little. "See here," he began, holding 
out his cigar between his finger and thumb, 
"suppose you figure up what this'll amount to. 
You don't catch on? Well, we get two months' 
advance; we can't get away from Papeete our 

43 



THE EBB-TIDE 

creditors wouldn't let us go for less. It'll take 
us along about two months to get to Sydney ; and 
when we get there I just want to put it to 
you squarely: What the better are we? " 

"We're off the beach, at least," said Herrick. 

"I guess there's a beach at Sydney," returned 
the captain; "and I'll tell you one thing, Mr. 
Herrick I don't mean to try. No, sir! Syd- 
ney will never see me." 

"Speak out plain," said Herrick. 

"Plain Dutch," replied the captain, "I'm 
going to own that schooner. It's nothing new; 
it's done every year in the Pacific. Stephens 
stole a schooner the other day, didn't he? Hayes 
and Pease stole vessels all the time. And it's 
the making of the crowd of us. See here, you 
think of that cargo. Champagne! Why, it's 
like as if it was put up on purpose. In Peru, 
we'll sell that liquor off at the pier-head, and the 
schooner after it, if we can find a fool to buy her, 
and then light out for the mines. If you'll back 
me up, I'll stake my life I'll carry it through." 

"Captain," said Herrick, with a quailing 
voice, "don't do it!" 

"I'm desperate," returned Davis. " I've got a 
chance; I may never get another. Herrick, say 
the word; back me up. I think we've starved 
together long enough for that." 

"I can't do it. I'm sorry. I can't do it. 
I've not fallen as low as that," said Herrick, 
deadly pale. 

44 



THE OLD CALABOOSE 

"What did you say this morning? " said Davis. 
"That you couldn't beg? It's the one thing or 
the other, my son." 

"Ah, but this is the jail!" cried Herrick. 
"Don't tempt me. It's the jail." 

"Did you hear what the skipper said on board 
that schooner?" pursued the captain. "Well, 
I tell you he talked straight. The French have 
let us alone a long time; it can't last longer. 
They've got their eye on us and as sure as you 
live, in three weeks you'll be in jail, whatever 
you do. I read it in the consul's face." 

"You forget, captain," said the young man. 
"There is another way. I can die; and to say 
truth, I think I should have died three years 
ago." 

The captain folded his arms and looked the 
other in the face. "Yes," said he, "yes, you 
can cut your throat; that's a frozen fact. Much 
good may it do you! And where do I come in? " 

The light of a strange excitement came in 
Herrick's face. "Both of us," said he, "both of 
us together. It's not possible you can enjoy 
this business. Come," and he reached out a 
timid hand, "a few strokes in the lagoon and 
rest!" 

"I tell you, Herrick, I'm 'most tempted to 
answer you the way the man does in the Bible, 
and say, 'Get thee behind me, Satan!'" said the 
captain. "What! you think I would go drown 
myself, and I got children starving? Enjoy it? 

45 



THE EBB-TIDE 

No, by God! I do not enjoy it; but it's the row 
I've got to hoe, and I'll hoe it till I drop right 
here. I have three of them, you see, two boys 
and the one girl, Adar. The trouble is that you 
are not a parent yourself. I tell you, Herrick, I 
love you," the man broke out. "I didn't take 
to you at first, you were so Anglified and tony, 
but I love you now; it's a man that loves you 
stands here and wrestles with you. I can't go 
to sea with the bummer alone; it's not possible. 
Go drown yourself, and there goes my last 
chance, the last chance of a poor, miserable 
beast earning a crust to feed his family. I can't 
do nothing but sail ships, and I've no papers. 
And here I get a chance, and you go back on 
me! Ah, you've no family, and that's where the 
trouble is!" 

"I have indeed," said Herrick. 

"Yes, I know," said the captain, "you think 
so. But no man's got a family till he's got chil- 
dren. It's only the kids count. There's some- 
thing about the little shavers I can't talk of 
them. And if you thought a cent about this 
father that I hear you talk of, or that sweetheart 
you were writing to this morning, you would feel 
like me. You would say, 'What matter laws, 
and God, and that? My folks are hard up; I 
belong to them. I'll get them bread, or, by God ! 
I'll get them wealth, if I have to burn down 
London for it.' That's what you would say. 
And I'll tell you more: your heart is saying so 

46 



THE OLD CALABOOSE 

this living minute. I can see it in your face. 
You're thinking, 'Here's poor friendship for the 
man I've starved along of; and as for the girl 
that I set up to be in love with, here's a mighty 
limp kind of a love that won't carry me as far as 
'most any man would go for a demijohn of 
whisky. ' There's not much romance to that love, 
anyway; it's not the kind they carry on about in 
song books. But what's the good of my carrying 
on talking, when it's all in your inside as plain as 
print? I put the question to you once for all. 
Are you going to desert me in my hour of need 
you know if I've deserted you or will you give 
me your hand, and try a fresh deal, and go home 
(as like as not) a millionaire? Say No, and 
God pity me! Say Yes, and I'll make the little 
ones pray for you every night on their bended 
knees. 'God bless Mr. Herrick!' that's what 
they'll say, one after the other, the old girl sit- 
ting there holding stakes at the foot of the 

bed and the damned little innocents " He 

broke off. "I don't often rip out about the 
kids," he said, "but when I do, there's some- 
thing fetches loose." 

"Captain," said Herrick, faintly, "is there 
nothing else?" 

"I'll prophesy if you like," said the captain, 
with renewed vigour. "Refuse this because 
you think yourself too honest, and before a 
month's out you'll be jailed for a sneak-thief. I 
give you the word fair. I can see it, Herrick, 

47 



THE EBB-TIDE 

if you can't; you're breaking down. Don't 
think, if you refuse this chance, that you'll go 
on doing the evangelical; you're about through 
with your stock, and before you know where you 
are, you'll be right out on the other side. No, 
it's either this for you, or else it's Caledonia. I 
bet you never were there, and saw those white, 
shaved men, in their dust-clothes and straw hats, 
prowling around in gangs in the lamplight at 
Noumea; they look like wolves, and they look 
like preachers, and they look like the sick. 
Huish is a daisy to the best of them. Well, 
there's your company. They're waiting for 
you, Herrick, and you got to go; and that's a 
prophecy." 

And as the man stood and shook through his 
great stature, he seemed, indeed, like one in 
whom the spirit of divination worked and might 
utter oracles. Herrick looked at him and looked 
away; it seemed not decent to spy upon such agi- 
tation, and the young man's courage sank. 

"You talk of going home," he objected. "We 
could never do that." 

" We could," said the other. " Captain Brown 
couldn't, nor Mr. Hay that shipped mate with 
him couldn't. But what's that to do with Cap- 
tain Davis or Mr. Herrick, you galoot?" 

"But Hayes had these wild islands where he 
used to call," came the next, fainter objection. 

"We have the wild islands of Peru," retorted 
Davis. "They were wild enough for Stephens 

48 



THE OLD CALABOOSE 

no longer agone than just last year. I guess 
they'll be wild enough for us." 

"And the crew?" 

"All Kanakas. Come, I see you're right, old 
man. I see you'll stand by." And the captain 
once more offered his hand. 

"Have it your own way, then," said Herrick. 
"I'll do it. A strange thing for my father's son. 
But I'll do it. I'll stand by you, man, for good 
or evil." 

"God bless you!" cried the captain, and stood 
silent. "Herrick," he added, with a smile, "I 
believe I'd have died in my tracks if you'd have 
said No." 

And Herrick, looking at the man, half-believed 
so also. 

"And now we'll go break it to the bummer," 
said Davis. 

"I wonder how he'll take it," said Herrick. 

"Him? Jump at it!" was the reply. 



49 



CHAPTER IV 

THE YELLOW FLAG 

THE schooner Farallone lay well out in the 
jaws of the pass, where the terrified pilot 
had made haste to bring her to her moorings and 
escape. Seen from the beach, through the thin 
line of shipping, two objects stood conspicuous 
to seaward, the little isle, on the one hand, 
with its palms, and the guns and batteries raised 
forty years before in defence of Queen Pomare's 
capital; the outcast Farallone, upon the other, 
banished to the threshold of the port, rolling 
there to her scuppers, and flaunting the plague- 
flag as she rolled. A few sea-birds screamed and 
cried about the ship, and within easy range a 
man-of-war guard-boat hung off and on, and 
glittered with the weapons of marines. The 
exuberant daylight and the blinding heaven of 
the tropics picked out and framed the picture. 
A neat boat, manned by natives in uniform, 
and steered by the doctor of the port, put from 
shore towards three of the afternoon, and pulled 
smartly for the schooner. The fore-sheets were 
heaped with sacks of flour, onions, and potatoes, 

50 



THE YELLOW FLAG 

perched among which was Huish, dressed as a 
foremast hand; a heap of chests and cases im- 
peded the action of the oarsmen; and in the stern, 
by the left hand of the doctor, sat Herrick, 
dressed in a fresh rig of slops, his brown beard 
trimmed to a point, a pile of paper novels on his 
lap, and nursing the while between his feet a 
chronometer, for which they had exchanged that 
of the Farallone, long since run down and the 
rate lost. 

They passed the guard-boat, exchanging hails 
with the boatswain's mate in charge, and drew 
near at last to the forbidden ship. Not a cat 
stirred ; there was no speech of man ; and the sea 
being exceedingly high outside, and the reef 
close to where the schooner lay, the clamour 
of the surf hung round her like the sound of 
battle. 

" Ohe la goelette ! " sang out the doctor, with his 
best voice. 

Instantly from the house, where they had been 
stowing away stores, first Davis and then the 
ragamuffin swarthy crew made their appearance. 

"Hullo, Hay, that you?" said the captain, 
leaning on the rail. "Tell the old man to lay 
her alongside as if she was eggs. There's a hell 
of a run of sea here, and his boat's brittle." 

The movement of the schooner was at that 
time more than usually violent. Now she heav- 
ed her side as high as a deep-sea steamer's, and 
showed the flashing of her copper; now she 

51 



THE EBB-TIDE 

swung swiftly towards the boat until her scup- 
pers gurgled. 

"I hope you have sea-legs," observed the 
doctor. "You will require them." 

Indeed, to board the Farallone, in that exposed 
position where she lay, was an affair of some 
dexterity. The less precious goods were hoisted 
roughly in ; the chronometer, after repeated fail- 
ures, was passed gently and successfully from 
hand to hand, and there remained only the more 
difficult business of embarking Huish. Even that 
piece of dead weight (shipped A. B. at eighteen 
dollars and described by the captain to the con- 
sul as an invaluable man) was at last hauled on 
board without mishap, and the doctor, with civil 
salutations, took his leave. 

The three co-adventurers looked at each other, 
and Davis heaved a breath of relief. 

"Now let's get this chronometer fixed," said 
he, and led the way into the house. It was a 
fairly spacious place; two staterooms and a good- 
sized pantry opened from the main cabin. The 
bulk-heads were painted white, the floor laid 
with wax-cloth. No litter, no sign of life re- 
mained, for the effects of the dead men had been 
disinfected and conveyed on shore. Only on the 
table, in a saucer, some sulphur burned, and the 
fumes set them coughing as they entered. The 
captain peered into the starboard stateroom, 
where the bed-clothes still lay tumbled in the 
bunk, the blanket flung back as they had flung 

52 



THE YELLOW FLAG 

it back from the disfigured corpse before its 
burial. 

"Now, I told these niggers to tumble that 
truck overboard," grumbled Davis. "Guess 
they were afraid to lay hands on it. Well, 
they've hosed the place out ; that's as much as 
can be expected, I suppose. Huish, lay on to 
these blankets." 

"See you blooming well far enough first," 
said Huish, drawing back. 

"What's that?" snapped the captain. "I'll 
tell you, my young friend, I think you make a 
mistake. I'm captain here." 

"Fat lot I care," returned the clerk. 

"That so?" said Davis. "Then you'll berth 
forward with the niggers! Walk right out of 
this cabin." 

" Oh, I daresay ! " said Huish. " See any green 
in my eye? A lark's a lark." 

"Well, now, I'll explain this business, and 
you'll see (once for all) just precisely how much 
lark there is to it," said Davis. "I'm captain, 
and I'm going to be it. One thing of three. 
First, you take my orders here as cabin steward, 
in which case you mess with us. Or, second, you 
refuse, and I pack you forward, and you get as 
quick as the word's said. Or, third and last, 
I'll signal that man-of-war and send you ashore 
under arrest for mutiny." 

"And of course I wouldn't blow the gaff? Oh, 
no!" replied the jeering Huish. 

53 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"And who's to believe you, my son? " inquired 
the captain. "No sir! There ain't no larking 
about my captainising. Enough said. Up with 
these blankets." 

Huish was no fool, he knew when he was 
beaten; and he was no coward, either, for he 
stepped to the bunk, took the infected bed- 
clothes fairly in his arms, and carried them out 
of the house without a check or a tremor. 

"I was waiting for the chance," said Davis to 
Herrick. "I needn't do the same with you, be- 
cause you understand it for yourself." 

"Are you going to berth here? " asked Herrick, 
following the captain into the stateroom, where 
he began to adjust the chronometer in its place 
at the bed-head. 

" Not much ! " replied he. "I guess I'll berth 
on deck. I don't know as I'm afraid, but I've 
no immediate use for confluent smallpox." 

"I don't know that I'm afraid either," said 
Herrick. "But the thought of those two men 
sticks in my throat, that captain and mate dy- 
ing here, one opposite to the other. It's grim. 
I wonder what they said last!" 

"Wiseman and Wishart?" said the captain. 
"Probably mighty small potatoes. That's the 
thing a fellow figures out for himself one way, 
and the real business goes quite another. Per- 
haps Wiseman said, * Here, old man, fetch up the 
gin; I'm feeling powerful rocky.' And perhaps 
Wishart said, 'Oh, hell!'" 

54 



THE YELLOW FLAG 

"Well, that's grim enough," said Herrick. 

"And so it is," said Davis. "There; there's 
that chronometer fixed. And now it's about 
time to up anchor and clear out." 

He lit a cigar and stepped on deck. 

" Here, you I What's your name? " he cried to 
one of the hands, a lean-flanked, clean-built fel- 
low from some far western island, and of a dark- 
ness almost approaching to the African. 

"Sally Day," replied the man. 

" Devil it is ! " said the captain. "Didn't know 
we had ladies on board. Well, Sally, oblige me 
by hauling down that rag there. I'll do the same 
for you another time." He watched the yel- 
low bunting as it was eased past the cross-trees 
and handed down on deck. "You'll float no 
more on this ship," he observed. "Muster the 
people aft, Mr. Hay," he added, speaking 
unnecessarily loud. "I've a word to say to 
them." 

It was with a singular sensation that Herrick 
prepared for the first time to address a crew. 
He thanked his stars, indeed, that they were na- 
tives. But even natives, he reflected, might be 
critics too quick for such a novice as himself; 
they might perceive some lapse from that pre- 
cise and cut-and-dry English which prevails on 
board a ship; it was even possible they under- 
stood no other; and he racked his brain, and 
overhauled his reminiscences of sea romance, for 
some appropriate words. 

55 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Here, men, tumble aft!" he said at last. 
" Lively now I All hands aft I " 

They crowded in the alleyway like sheep. 

"Here they are, sir," said Herrick. 

For some time the captain continued to face 
the stern, then turned with ferocious suddenness 
on the crew, and seemed to enjoy their shrinking. 

"Now," he said, twisting his cigar in his 
mouth, and toying with the spokes of the wheel, 
"I'm Captain Brown. I command this ship. 
This is Mr. Hay, first officer. The other white 
man is cabin steward, but he'll stand watch and 
do his trick. My orders shall be obeyed smartly. 
You savvy, smartly? There shall be no growl- 
ing about the kaikai, which will be above allow- 
ance. You'll put a handle to the mate's name, 
and tack on 'sir' to every order I give you. If 
you're smart and quick, I'll make this ship com- 
fortable for all hands." He took the cigar out 
of his mouth. "If you're not," he added, in a 
roaring voice, "I'll make it a floating hell. Now, 
Mr. Hay, we'll pick watches, if you please." 

"All right," said Herrick. 

"You will please use 'sir' when you address 
me, Mr. Hay," said the captain. "I'll take the 
lady. Step to starboard, Sally." And then he 
whispered in Herrick's ear: "Take the old man." 

"I'll take you, there," said Herrick. 

"What's your name?" said the captain. 
"What's that you say? Oh, that's not English; 
I'll have none of your highway gibberish on my 

56 



THE YELLOW FLAG 

ship. We'll call you old Uncle Ned, because 
you've got no wool on the top of your head, just 
the place where the wool ought to grow. Step 
to port, Uncle. Don't you hear Mr. Hay has 
picked you? Then I'll take the white man. 
White Man, step to starboard. Now, which of 
you two is the cook? You? Then Mr. Hay 
takes your friend in the blue dungaree. Step to 
port, Dungaree. There I we know who we all 
are Dungaree, Uncle Ned, Sally Day, White 
Man, and Cook. All F. F. V.'s, I guess. And 
now, Mr. Hay, we'll up anchor, if you please." 

"For heaven's sake, tell me some of the 
words," whispered Herrick. 

An hour later the Farallone was under all plain 
sail, the rudder hard a-port, and the cheerfully- 
clanking windlass had brought the anchor home. 

"All clear, sir," cried Herrick, from the bow. 

The captain met her with the wheel, as she 
bounded like a stag from her repose, trembling 
and bending to the puffs. The guard-boat gave 
a parting hail, the wake whitened and ran out; 
the Farallone was under weigh. 

Her berth had been close to the pass. Even 
as she forged ahead, Davis slewed her for the 
channel between the pier-ends of the reef, the 
breakers sounding and whitening to either hand. 
Straight through the narrow band of blue she 
shot to seaward, and the captain's heart exulted 
as he felt her tremble under foot, and (looking 
back over the taff-rail) beheld the roofs of Pa- 

57 



THE EBB-TIDE 

peete changing position on the shore, and the 
island mountains rearing higher in the wake. 

But they were not yet done with the shore and 
the horror of the yellow flag. About midway 
of the pass there was a cry and a scurry; a man 
was seen to leap upon the rail, and, throwing his 
arms over his head, to stoop and plunge into the 
sea. 

"Steady as she goes," the captain cried, relin- 
quishing the wheel to Huish. 

The next moment he was forward, in the midst 
of the Kanakas, belaying-pin in hand. 

"Anybody else for shore?" he cried, and the 
savage trumpeting of his voice, no less than the 
ready weapon in his hand, struck fear in all. 
Stupidly they stared after their escaped com- 
panion, whose black head was visible upon the 
water, steering for the land. And the schooner 
meanwhile slipped like a racer through the pass, 
and met the long sea of the open ocean with a 
souse of spray. 

"Fool that I was, not to have a pistol ready!" 
exclaimed Davis. "Well, we go to sea short- 
handed; we can't help that. You have a lame 
watch of it, Mr. Hay." 

"I don't see how we are to get along," said 
Herrick. 

' ' Got to, ' ' said the captain. ' ' No more Tahiti 
for me." 

Both turned instinctively and looked astern. 
The fair island was unfolding, mountain-top on 

58 



THE YELLOW FLAG 

mountain-top; Eimeo, on the port board, lifted 
her splintered pinnacles, and still the schooner 
raced to the open sea. 

"Think!" cried the captain, with a gesture, 
" yesterday morning I danced for my breakfast, 
like a poodle dog." 



59 



CHAPTER V 

THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

r |THE ship's head was laid to clear Eimeo to 
A the north, and the captain sat down in the 
cabin with a chart, a ruler, and an epitome. 

"East a half no'the," said he, raising his face 
from his labours. "Mr. Hay, you'll have to 
watch her dead reckoning. I want every yard 
she makes on every hair's breadth of a course. 
I'm going to knock a hole right straight through 
the Paumotus, and that's always a near touch. 
Now, if this southeast trade ever blew out of the 
southeast, which it don't, we might hope to lie 
within half a point of our course. Say we lie 
within a point of it. That'll just about weather 
Fakarava. Yes, sir, that's what we've got to 
do, if we tack for it. Brings us through this 
slush of little islands in the cleanest place; see?" 
And he showed where his ruler intersected the 
wide-lying labyrinth of the Dangerous Archi- 
pelago. "I wish it was night, and I could put 
her about right now; we're losing time and east- 
ing. Well, we'll do our best. And if we don't 
fetch Peru, we'll bring up to Ecuador. All one, 

60 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

I guess. Depreciated dollars down, and no ques- 
tions asked. A remarkable fine institootion, the 
South American don." 

Tahiti was already some way astern, the Dia- 
dem rising from among broken mountains ; Eimeo 
was already close aboard, and stood black and 
strange against the golden splendour of the west, 
when the captain took his departure from the 
two islands, and the patent log was set. 

Some twenty minutes later, Sally Day, who 
was continually leaving the wheel to peer in at 
the cabin clock, announced in a shrill cry "Fo' 
bell," and the cook was to be seen carrying the 
soup into the cabin. 

"I guess I'll sit down and have a pick with 
you," said Davis to Herrick. " By the time I've 
done, it'll be dark, and we'll clap the hooker on 
the wind for South America." 

In the cabin, at one corner of the table, im- 
mediately below the lamp, and on the lee side of 
a bottle of champagne, sat Huish. 

"What's this? Where did that come from?" 
asked the captain. 

"It's fizz; and it came from the after- 'old, if 
you want to know," said Huish, and drained his 
mug. 

"This'll never do!!' exclaimed Davis, the mer- 
chant seaman's horror of breaking into cargo 
showing incongruously forth on board that stolen 
ship. "There was never any good came of 
games like that." 

61 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"You byby!" said Huish. "A fellow would 
think (to 'ear him) we were on the square! And 
look 'ere, you've put this job up 'andsomely for 
me, 'aven't you? I'm to go on deck and steer 
while you two sit and guzzle, and I'm to go by a 
nickname, and got to call you 'sir' and 'mister.' 
Well, you look here, my bloke; I'll have fizz ad 
lib., or it won't wash. I tell you that. And you 
know mighty well, you ain't got any man-of-war 
to signal now." 

Davis was staggered. "I'd give fifty dollars 
this had never happened," he said weakly. 

"Well, it 'as 'appened, you see," returned 
Huish. "Try some; it's devilish good." 

The Rubicon was crossed without another 
struggle. The captain filled a mug and drank. 

"I wish it was beer," he said with a sigh. 
"But there's no denying it's the genuine stuff, and 
cheap at the money. Now, Huish, you clear 
out and take your wheel." 

The little wretch had gained a point, and he 
was gay. "Ay, ay, sir," said he, and left the 
others to their meal. 

" Pea soup ! " exclaimed the captain. " Blamed 
if I thought I should taste pea soup again 1" 

Herrick sat inert and silent. It was impossi- 
ble, after these months of hopeless want, to smell 
the rough, high-spiced sea victuals without lust, 
and his mouth watered with desire of the cham- 
pagne. It was no less impossible to have as- 
sisted at the scene between Huish and the cap- 

62 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

tain, and not to perceive, with sudden bluntness, 
the gulf wherein he had fallen. He was a thief 
among thieves. He said it to himself. He could 
not touch the soup. If he had moved at all, it 
must have been to leave the table, throw himself 
overboard, and drown an honest man. 

"Here," said the captain, "you look sick, old 
man; have a drop of this." 

The champagne creamed and bubbled in the 
mug; its bright colour, its lively effervescence 
seized his eye. "It is too late to hesitate," he 
thought. His hand took the mug instinctively ; 
he drank, with unquenchable pleasure and desire 
of more; drained the vessel dry, and set it down 
with sparkling eyes. 

"There is something in life after all! " he cried. 
" I had forgot what it was like. Yes, even this is 
worth while. Wine, food, dry clothes why, 
they're worth dying, worth hanging for! Cap- 
tain, tell me one thing: why aren't all the poor 
folk foot-pads?" 

"Give it up," said the captain. 

"They must be damned good," cried Herrick. 
"There's something here beyond me. Think of 
that calaboose ! Suppose we were sent suddenly 
back!" He shuddered as though stung by a 
convulsion, and buried his face in his clutching 
hands. 

"Here, what's wrong with you?" cried the 
captain. There was no reply; only Hemck's 
shoulders heaved so that the table was shaken. 

63 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Take some more of this. Here, drink this. I 
order you to! Don't start crying when you're 
out of the wood." 

"I'm not crying," said Herrick, raising his face 
and showing his dry eyes. " It's worse than cry- 
ing. It's the horror of that grave that we've 
escaped from." 

"Come, now, you tackle your soup; that'll fix 
you," said Davis, kindly. " I told you you were 
all broken up. You couldn't have stood out 
another week." 

" That's the dreadful part of it ! " cried Herrick. 
"Another week, and I'd have murdered some one 
for a dollar! God! and I know that? And I'm 
still living? It's some beastly dream." 

"Quietly, quietly! Quietly does it, my son. 
Take your pea soup. Food that's what you 
want," said Davis. 

The soup strengthened and quieted Herrick's 
nerves; another glass of wine, and a piece of 
pickled pork and fried banana completed what 
the soup began, and he was able once more to 
look the captain in the face. 

"I didn't know I was so much run down," he 
said. 

"Well," said Davis, "you were as steady as a 
rock all day; now you've had a little lunch, you'll 
be as steady as a rock again." 

''Yes," was the reply, "I'm steady enough 
now, but I'm a queer kind of a first officer." 

"Shucks!" cried the captain. "You've only 
64 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

got to mind the ship's course, and keep your slate 
to half a point. A babby could do that; let 
alone a college graduate like you. There ain't 
nothing to sailoring, when you come to look it in 
the face. And now we'll go and put her about. 
Bring the slate; we'll have to start our dead 
reckoning right away." 

The distance run since the departure was read 
off the log by the binnacle light, and entered on 
the slate. 

" Ready about," said the captain. " Give me the 
wheel, White Man, and you stand by the main- 
sheet. Boom tackle, Mr. Hay, please, and then 
you can jump forward and attend head-sails." 

"Ay, ay, sir," responded Herrick. 

"All clear forward? " asked Davis. 

"All clear, sir." 

"Hard a-lee!" cried the captain. "Haul in 
your slack as she comes," he called to Huish. 
"Haul in your slack; put your back into it; keep 
your feet out of the coils." A sudden blow sent 
Huish flat along the deck, and the captain was 
in his place. "Pick yourself up and keep the 
wheel hard over!" he roared. "You wooden 
fool, you wanted to get killed, I guess. Draw 
the jib," he cried a moment later; and then to 
Huish, " Give me the wheel again, and see if you 
can coil that sheet." 

But Huish stood and looked at Davis with an 
evil countenance. "Do you know you struck 
me?" said he. 

65 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Do you know I saved your life?" returned 
the other, not deigning to look at him; his eyes 
travelling, instead, between the compass and the 
sails. "Where would you have been if that 
boom had swung out and you bundled in the 
slack? No, sir: we'll have no more of you at the 
mainsheet. Seaport towns are full of main- 
sheet-men; they hop upon one leg, my son, 
what's left of them, and the rest are dead. (Set 
your boom tackle, Mr. Hay.) Struck you, did 
I? Lucky for you I did." 

"Well," said Huish, slowly, "I dessay there 
may be somethink in that. 'Ope there is." He 
turned his back elaborately on the captain, and 
entered the house, where the speedy explosion of 
a champagne cork showed he was attending to 
his comfort. 

Herrick came aft to the captain. "How is 
she doing now?" he asked. 

"East and by no 'the a half no'the," said 
Davis. "It's about as good as I expected." 

" What'll the hands think of it? " said Herrick. 

"Oh, they don't think. They ain't paid to," 
said the captain. 

"There was something wrong, was there not, 
between you and " Herrick paused. 

"That's a nasty little beast; that's a biter," 
replied the captain, shaking his head. "But so 
long as you and me hang in, it don't matter." 

Herrick lay down in the weather alleyway ; the 
night was cloudless; the movement of the ship 

66 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

cradled him; he was oppressed, besides, by the 
first generous meal after so long a time of famine, 
and he was recalled from deep sleep by the voice 
of Davis singing out : " Eight bells! " 

He rose stupidly and staggered aft, where the 
captain gave him the wheel. 

' ' By the wind, ' ' said the captain. ' * It comes a 
little puffy; when you get a heavy puff, steal all 
you can to windward, but keep her a good full." 

He stepped towards the house, paused, and 
hailed the forecastle. "Got such a thing as a 
concertina forward?" said he. "Bully for you, 
Uncle Ned. Fetch it aft, will you? " 

The schooner steered very easy; and Herrick, 
watching the moon-whitened sails, was over- 
powered by drowsiness. A sharp report from 
the cabin startled him; a third bottle had been 
opened ; and Herrick remembered the Sea Ranger 
and Fourteen Island Group. Presently the 
notes of the accordion sounded, and then the 
captain's voice : 

"0 honey, with our pockets full of money, 

We will trip, trip, trip, we will trip it on the quay; 
And I will dance with Rate, and Tom will dance with Sail, 
When we're all back from South Amerikee." 

So it went to its quaint air; and the watch below 
lingered and listened by the forward door, and 
Uncle Ned was to be seen in the moonh'ght nod- 
ding time, and Herrick smiled at the wheel, his 
anxieties a while forgotten. Song followed song ; 

67 



THE EBB-TIDE 

another cork exploded ; there were voices raised, 
as though the pair in the cabin were in disagree- 
ment; and presently it seemed the breach was 
healed for it was now the voice of Huish that 
struck up, to the captain's accompaniment: 

"Up in a balloon, boys, 

Up in a balloon, 
All among the little stars, 
And round about the moon." 

A wave of nausea overcame Herrick at the 
wheel. He wondered why the air, the words 
(which were yet written with a certain knack), 
and the voice and accent of the singer, should all 
jar his spirit like a file on a man's teeth. He 
sickened at the thought of his two comrades 
drinking away their reason upon stolen wine, 
quarrelling and hiccupping and making up, 
while the doors of a prison yawned for them in 
the near future. "Shall I have sold my honour 
for nothing? " he thought; and a heat of rage and 
resolution glowed in his bosom, rage against 
his comrades, resolution to carry through this 
business if it might be carried ; pluck profit out of 
shame, since the shame at least was now inevit- 
able ; and come home, home from South America 
how did the song go? "with his pockets full 
of money." 

"0 honey, with our pockets full of money, 

We will trip, trip, trip, we will trip it on the quay:" 

68 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

so the words ran in his head, and the "honey" 
took on visible form; the quay rose before him, 
and he knew it for the lamplit Embankment, 
and he saw the lights of Battersea bridge be- 
stride the sullen river. All through the re- 
mainder of his trick he stood entranced, review- 
ing the past. He had been always true to his 
love, but not always sedulous to recall her. In 
the growing calamity of his life, she had swum 
more distant, like the moon in mist. The letter 
of farewell, the dishonourable hope that had sur- 
prised and corrupted him in his distress, the 
changed scene, the sea, the night, and the music, 
all stirred him to the roots of manhood. " I 
will win her," he thought and ground his teeth. 
"Fair or foul, what matters if I win her?" 

"Fo' bell, matey. I think urn fo' bell." He 
was suddenly recalled by these words in the 
voice of Uncle Ned. 

"Look in at the clock, Uncle," said he. He 
would not look himself, from horror of the tip- 
plers. 

"Him past, matey," repeated the Hawaiian. 

"So much the better for you, Uncle," he re- 
plied; and he gave up the wheel, repeating the 
directions as he had received them. 

He took two steps forward, and remembered 
his dead reckoning. "How has she been head- 
ing?" he thought; and he flushed from head to 
foot. He had not observed, or had forgotten; 
here was the old incompetence ; the slate must be 

69 



THE EBB-TIDE 

filled up by guess. "Never again!" he vowed 
to himself in silent fury, "never again. It shall 
be no fault of mine if this miscarry." And for 
the remainder of his watch he stood close by 
Uncle Ned, and read the face of the compass as, 
perhaps, he had never read a letter from his 
sweetheart. 

All the time, and spurring him to the more 
attention, song, loud talk, fleering laughter, and 
the occasional popping of a cork reached his 
ears from the interior of the house; and when the 
port watch was relieved at midnight, Huish and 
the captain appeared upon the quarter-deck 
with flushed faces and uneven steps, the former 
with bottles, the latter with the two tin mugs. 
Herrick silently passed them by. They hailed 
him in thick voices; he made no answer. They 
cursed him for a churl; he paid no heed, although 
his belly quivered with disgust and rage. He 
closed-to the door of the house behind him, and 
cast himself on a locker in the cabin not to 
sleep, he thought; rather to think and to despair. 
Yet he had scarce turned twice on his uneasy 
bed before a drunken voice hailed him in the ear, 
and he must go on deck again to stand the morn- 
ing watch. 

The first evening set the model for those that 
were to follow. Two cases of champagne scarce 
lasted the four-and-twenty hours, and almost 
the whole was drunk by Huish and the captain. 
Huish seemed to thrive on the excess. He was 

70 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

never sober, yet never wholly tipsy ; the food and 
the sea air had soon healed him of his disease, 
and he began to lay on flesh. But with Davis 
things went worse. In the drooping, unbut- 
toned figure that sprawled all day upon the lock- 
ers, tippling and reading novels, in the fool who 
made of the evening watch a public carouse on 
the quarter-deck, it would have been hard to 
recognise the vigorous seaman of Papeete roads. 
He kept himself reasonably well in hand till he 
had taken the sun and yawned and blotted 
through his calculations; but, from the moment 
he rolled up the chart, his hours were passed in 
slavish self-indulgence or in hoggish slumber. 
Every other branch of his duty was neglected, 
except maintaining a stern discipline about the 
dinner table. Again and again, Herrick would 
hear the cook called aft, and see him running 
with fresh tins, or carrying away again a meal 
that had been totally condemned. And the 
more the captain became sunk in drunkenness 
the more delicate his palate showed itself. 
Once, in the forenoon, he had a bo'sun's chair 
rigged over the rail, stripped to his trousers, and 
went overboard with a pot of paint. "I don't 
like the way this schooner's painted," said he, 
"and I'll take a turn upon her name." But he 
tired of it in half an hour and the schooner went 
on her way with an incongruous patch of colour 
on the stern, and the word "Farallone" part 
obliterated and part looking through. He re- 

71 



THE EBB-TIDE 

fused to stand either the middle or the morning 
watch. It was fine-weather sailing, he said; 
and asked, with a laugh, "Who ever heard of 
the old man standing watch himself?" To the 
dead reckoning which Herrick still tried to keep, 
he would pay not the least attention nor afford 
the least assistance. 

"What do we want of dead reckoning?" he 
asked. "We get the sun all right, don't we?" 

"We mayn't get it always, though," objected 
Herrick. "And you told me yourself you 
weren't sure of the chronometer." 

"Oh, there ain't no flies on the chronometer!" 
cried Davis. 

"Oblige me so far, captain," said Herrick, 
stiffly. "I am anxious to keep this reckoning, 
which is a part of my duty. I do not know what 
to allow for current nor how to allow for it. I 
am too inexperienced, and I beg of you to help 
me." 

"Never discourage zealous officer," said the 
captain, unrolling the chart again, for Herrick 
had taken him over his day's work, and while 
he was still partly sober. "Here it is, look for 
yourself; anything from west to west-no'the- 
west, and anyways from five to twenty-five miles. 
That's what the A'm'ralty chart says. I guess 
you don't expect to get ahead of your own Brit- 
ishers?" 

" I am trying to do my duty, Captain Brown," 
said Herrick, with a dark flush; "and I have the 

72 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

honour to inform you that I don't enjoy being 
trifled with." 

"What in thunder do you want?" roared 
Davis. " Go and look at the blamed wake. If 
you're trying to do your duty, why don't you go 
and do it? I guess it's no business of mine to go 
and stick my head over the ship's rump. I guess 
it's yours. And I'll tell you what it is, my fine 
fellow, I'll trouble you not to come the dude 
over me. You're insolent; that's what's wrong 
with you. Don't you crowd me, Mr. Herrick, 
Esquire." 

Herrick tore up his papers, threw them on the 
floor, and left the cabin. 

"He's turned a bloomin' swot, ain't he?" 
sneered Huish. 

"He thinks himself too good for his com- 
pany; that's what ails Herrick, Esquire," raged 
the captain. "He thinks I don't understand 
when he comes the heavy swell. Won't sit 
down with us, won't he? Won't say a civil 
word? I'll serve the son of a gun as he deserves. 
By God, Huish, I'll show him whether he's too 
good for John Davis!" 

"Easy with the names, cap'," said Huish, 
who was always the more sober. "Easy over 
the stones, my boy!" 

"All right, I will. You're a good sort, Huish. 
I didn't take to you at first, but I guess you're 
right enough. Le's open another bottle," said 
the captain; and that day, perhaps because he 

73 



THE EBB-TIDE 

was excited by the quarrel, he drank more reck- 
lessly, and by four o'clock was stretched insen- 
sible upon the locker. 

Herrick and Huish supped alone, one after the 
other, opposite his flushed and snorting body. 
And if the sight killed Herrick's hunger, the 
isolation weighed so heavily on the clerk's 
spirit that he was scarce risen from table ere 
he was currying favour with his former com- 
rade. 

Herrick was at the wheel when he approached, 
and Huish leaned confidentially across the bin- 
nacle. 

"I say, old chappie," he said, "you and me 
don't seem to be such pals, somehow." 

Herrick gave her a spoke or two in silence; his 
eye, as it skirted from the needle to the luff of 
the foresail, passed the man by without specu- 
lation. But Huish was really dull, a thing he 
could support with difficulty, having no re- 
sources of his own. The idea of a private talk 
with Herrick, at this stage of their relations, 
held out particular inducements to a person of 
his character. Drink, besides, as it renders some 
men hyper-sensitive, made Huish callous; and 
it would almost have required a blow to make 
him quit his purpose. 

"Pretty business, ain't it?" he continued. 
"Dyvis on the lush! Must say I thought you 
gave 1 it 'im A-l to-day. He didn't like it a bit ; 
took on hawful after you were gone. "Ere,' 

74 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

says I, "old on, easy on the lush,' I says. "Er- 
rick was right, and you know it. Give 'im a 
chanst,' I says. "Uish,' sezee, 'don't you gim- 
me no more of your jaw, or I'll knock your 
bloomin' eyes out.' Well, wot can I do, 'Errick? 
But I tell you, I don't 'arf like it. It looks 
to me like the Sea Ranger over again." 

Still Herrick was silent. 

"Do you 'ear me speak?" asked Huish, sharp- 
ly. "You're pleasant, ain't you?" 

"Stand away from that binnacle," said Her- 
rick. 

The clerk looked at him, long and straight and 
black; his figure seemed to writhe like that of a 
snake about to strike; then he turned on his heel, 
went back to the cabin, and opened a bottle of 
champagne. When eight bells were cried, he 
slept on the floor beside the captain on the locker; 
and of the whole starboard watch, only Sally 
Day appeared upon the summons. The mate 
proposed to stand the watch with him, and let 
Uncle Ned lie down. It would make twelve 
hours on deck, and probably sixteen; but in this 
fair-weather sailing, he might safely sleep be- 
tween his tricks of wheel, leaving orders to be 
called on any sign of squalls. So far he could 
trust the men, between whom and himself a 
close relation had sprung up. With Uncle Ned 
he held long nocturnal conversations, and the 
old man told him his simple and hard story of 
exile, suffering, and injustice among cruel whites. 

75 



THE EBB-TIDE 

The cook, when he found Herrick messed alone, 
produced for him unexpected and sometimes 
unpalatable dainties, of which he forced himself 
to eat. And one day, when he was forward, he 
was surprised to feel a caressing hand run down 
his shoulder, and to hear the voice of Sally Day 
crooning in his ear: "You gootch man!" He 
turned, and, choking down a sob, shook hands 
with the negrito. They were kindly, cheery, 
childish souls. Upon the Sunday each brought 
forth his separate Bible; for they were all men 
of alien speech, even to each other, and Sally 
Day communicated with his mates in English 
only. Each read or made-believe to read, his 
chapter, Uncle Ned with spectacles on nose, and 
they would all join together in the singing of 
missionary hymns. It was thus a cutting re- 
proof to compare the islanders and the whites 
aboard the Farallone. Shame ran in Herrick's 
blood to remember what employment he was on, 
and to see these poor souls and even Sally Day, 
the child of cannibals, in all likelihood a cannibal 
himself so faithful to what they knew of good. 
The fact that he was held in grateful favour by 
these innocents served like blinders to his con- 
science, and there were times when he was in- 
clined, with Sally Day, to call himself a good 
man. But the height of his favour was only 
now to appear. With one voice the crew pro- 
tested. Ere Herrick knew what they were doing 
the cook was aroused, and came a willing volun- 

76 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

teer; all hands clustered about their mate with 
expostulations and caresses, and he was bidden 
to lie down and take his customary rest without 
alarm. 

"He tell you tlue," said Uncle Ned. "You 
sleep. Evely man hea he do all light. Evely 
man he like you too much." 

Herrick struggled, and gave way; choked upon 
some trivial words of gratitude and walked to 
the side of the house, against which he leaned, 
struggling with emotion. 

Uncle Ned presently followed him, and begged 
him to lie down. 

"It's no use, Uncle Ned," he replied. "I 
couldn't sleep. I'm knocked over with all your 
goodness." 

"Ah, no call me Uncle Ned no mo' ! " cried the 
old man. "No my name! My name Taveeta, 
all-e-same Taveeta, King of Islael. Wat for he 
call that Hawaii? I think no savvy nothing 
all-e-same Wise-a-mana." 

It was the first time the name of the late cap- 
tain had been mentioned, and Herrick grasped 
the occasion. The reader shall be spared Uncle 
Ned's unwieldy dialect, and learn, in less em- 
barrassing English, the sum of what he now com- 
municated. The ship had scarce cleared the 
Golden Gate before the captain and mate had 
entered on a career of drunkenness, which was 
scarcely interrupted by their malady, and only 
closed by death. For days and weeks they had 

77 



THE EBB-TIDE 

encountered neither land nor ship; and, seeing 
themselves lost on the huge deep with their 
insane conductors, the natives had drunk deep 
of terror. 

At length they made a low island, and went in ; 
and Wiseman and Wishart landed in the boat. 
There was a great village, a very fine village, and 
plenty Kanakas in that place, but all mighty 
serious; and from every here and there in the' 
back parts of the settlement, Taveeta heard the 
sounds of island lamentation. "I no savvy talk 
that island," said he. "I savvy hear um cly. 
I think, Hum! too many people die here! " But 
upon Wiseman and Wishart the significance of 
that barbaric keening was lost. Full of bread 
and drink, they rollicked along, unconcerned; 
embraced the girls, who had scarce energy to 
repel them; took up and joined (with drunken 
voices) in the death-wail; and at last (on what 
they took to be an invitation) entered under the 
roof of a house in which was a considerable con- 
course of people sitting silent. They stooped 
below the eaves, flushed and laughing; within a 
minute they came forth again with changed 
faces and silenced tongues; and, as the press 
severed to make way for them, Taveeta was able 
to perceive, in the deep shadow of the house, the 
sick man raising from his mat a head already de- 
featured by disease. The two tragic triflers fled 
without hesitation, for their boat, screaming on 
Taveeta to make haste. They came aboard 

78 



with all speed of oars, raised anchor, and crowded 
sail upon the ship with blows and curses, and 
were at sea again and again drunk before sun- 
set. A week after, and the last of the two had 
been committed to the deep. Herrick asked 
Taveeta where that island was, and he replied 
that, by what he gathered of folks' talk as they 
went up together from the beach, he supposed 
it must be one of the Paumotus. This was in 
itself probable enough, for the Dangerous Archi- 
pelago had been swept that year from east to 
west by devastating smallpox; but Herrick 
thought it a strange course to lie for Sydney. 
Then he remembered the drink. 

"Were they not surprised when they made the 
island?" he asked. 

"Wise-a-mana he say, 'Damn! what this?" 
was the reply. 

"Oh, that's it, then," said Herrick. "I don't 
believe they knew where they were." 

" I think so, too," said Uncle Ned. " I think no 
savvy. This one mo' betta," he added, pointing 
to the house where the drunken captain slum- 
bered: "Take-a-sun all-e-same." 

The implied last touch completed Herrick's 
picture of the life and death of his two predeces- 
sors; of the prolonged, sordid, sodden sensuality 
as they sailed, they knew not whither, on their 
last cruise. He held but a twinkling and unsure 
belief in any future state; the thought of one of 
punishment, he derided; yet for him (as for all) 

79 



THE EBB-TIDE 

there dwelt a horror about the end of the brutish 
man. Sickness fell upon him at the image thus 
called up; and when he compared it with the 
scene in which himself was acting, and considered 
the doom that seemed to brood upon the schoon- 
er, a horror that was almost superstitious fell 
upon him. And yet the strange thing was, he 
did not falter. He who had proved his incapac- 
ity in so many fields, being now falsely placed 
amid duties which he did not understand, with- 
out help, and, it might be said, without counte- 
nance, had hitherto surpassed expectation; and 
even the shameful misconduct and shocking 
disclosures of that night served but to nerve and 
strengthen him. He had sold his honour; he 
vowed it should not be in vain. "It shall be 
no fault of mine if this miscarry," he repeated. 
And in his heart he wondered at himself. Living 
rage, no doubt, supported him; no doubt, also, 
the sense of the last cast, of the ships burned, 
of all doors closed but one, which is so strong a 
tonic to the merely weak, and so deadly a de- 
pressant to the merely cowardly. 

For some time the voyage went otherwise well. 
They weathered Fakarava with one board ; and, 
the wind holding well to the southward and blow- 
ing fresh, they passed between Kanaka and Ratiu 
and ran some days, northeast by east-half-east, 
under the lee of Takume and Honden, neither of 
which they made. In about 14 south and be- 
tween 134 and 135 west, it fell a dead calm, 

80 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

with rather a heavy sea. The captain refused to 
take in sail; the helm was lashed, no watch was 
set, and the Faratlone rolled and banged for three 
days, according to observation, in almost the 
same place. The fourth morning, a little before 
day, a breeze sprang up and rapidly freshened. 
The captain had drunk hard the night before; 
he was far from sober when he was roused; and 
when he came on deck for the first time, at half- 
past eight, it was plain he had already drunk 
deep again at breakfast. Herrick avoided his 
eye, and resigned the deck, with indignation, to 
a man more than half-seas-over. 

By the loud commands of the captain and the 
singing out of fellows at the ropes, he could judge 
from the house that sail was being crowded on 
the ship; relinquished his half-eaten breakfast, 
and came on deck again, to find the main and 
the jib top-sails set, and both watches and the 
cook turned out to hand the stay-sail. The 
Farallone lay already far over; the sky was ob- 
scured with misty scud ; and from the windward 
an ominous squall came flying up, broadening 
and blackening as it rose. 

Fear thrilled in Herrick's vitals. He saw 
death hard by, and, if not death, sure ruin; for 
if the Farallone lived through the coming squall, 
she must surely be dismasted. With that, their 
enterprise was at an end, and they themselves 
bound prisoners to the very evidence of their 
crime. The greatness of the peril and his own 

81 



THE EBB-TIDE 

alarm sufficed to silence him. Pride, wrath, and 
shame raged without issue in his mind, and he 
shut his teeth and folded his arms close. 

The captain sat in the boat to windward, 
bellowing orders and insults, his eyes glazed, his 
face deeply congested, a bottle set between his 
knees, a glass in his hand, half empty. His back 
was to the squall, and he was at first intent 
upon the setting of the sail. When that was 
done, and the great trapezium of canvas had be- 
gun to draw and to trail the lee-rail of the Faral- 
lone level with the foam, he laughed out an empty 
laugh, drained his glass, sprawled back among 
the lumber in the boat, and fetched out a crum- 
pled novel. 

Herrick watched him, and his indignation 
glowed red-hot. He glanced to windward, where 
the squall already whitened the near sea, and 
already heralded its coming with a singular and 
dismal sound. He glanced at the steersman, and 
saw him clinging to the spokes with a face of a 
sickly blue. He saw the crew were running to 
their stations without orders, and it seemed as if 
something broke in his brain; and the passion 
of anger, so long restrained, so long eaten in 
secret, burst suddenly loose, and filled and shook 
him like a sail. He stepped across to the cap- 
tain, and smote his hand heavily on the drunk- 
ard's shoulder. 

"You brute," he said, in a voice that tottered, 
"look behind you!" 

82 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

"Wha's that?" cried Davis, bounding in the 
boat and upsetting the champagne. 

"You lost the Sea Ranger because you were a 
drunken sot," said Herrick. " Now you're going 
to lose the Farallone. You're going to drown 
here the same way as you drowned others, and 
be damned. And your daughter shall walk the 
streets, and your sons be thieves like their 
father." 

For the moment, the words struck the captain 
white and foolish. ' ' My God I " he cried, looking 
at Herrick as upon a ghost ; "my God, Herrick! " 

"Look behind you, then!" reiterated the as- 
sailant. 

The wretched man, already partly sobered, did 
as he was told, and in the same breath of time 
leaped to his feet. "Down staysail!" he trum- 
peted. The hands were thrilling for the order, 
and the great sail came with a run, and fell half 
overboard among the racing foam. "Jib top- 
sail-halyards ! Let the stays '1 be," he said again. 

But before it was well uttered, the squall 
shouted aloud and fell, in a solid mass of wind 
and rain commingled on the Farallone, and she 
stooped under the blow, and lay like a thing 
dead. From the mind of Herrick reason fled; 
he clung in the weather rigging, exulting; he was 
done with life, and he gloried in the release; he 
gloried in the wild noises of the wind and the 
choking onslaught of the rain; he gloried to die 
so, and now, amid this coil of the elements. And 

83 



THE EBB-TIDE 

meanwhile, in the waist, up to his knees in water, 
so low the schooner lay, the captain was 
hacking at the foresheet with a pocket-knife. 
It was a question of seconds, for the Farallone 
drank deep of the encroaching seas. But the 
hand of the captain had the advance. The fore- 
sail boom tore apart the last strands of the sheet, 
and crashed to leeward ; the Farallone leaped up 
into the wind and righted; and the peak and 
throat halyards, which had long been let go, be- 
gan to run at the same instant. 

For some ten minutes more she careered under 
the impulse of the squall; but the captain was 
now master of himself and of his ship, and all 
danger at an end. And then, sudden as a trick- 
change upon the stage, the squall blew by, the 
wind dropped into light airs, the sun beamed 
forth again upon the tattered schooner; and the 
captain, having secured the foresail boom, and 
set a couple of hands to the pump, walked aft, 
sober, a little pale, and with the sodden end of a 
cigar still stuck between his teeth, even as the 
squall had found it. Herrick followed him. He 
could scarce recall the violence of his late emo- 
tions, but he felt there was a scene to go through, 
and he was anxious and even eager to go through 
with it. 

The captain, turning at the house-end, met 
him face to face, and averted his eyes. "We've 
lost the two tops'ls and the stays'l," he gabbled. 
"Good business we didn't lose any sticks. I 

84 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

guess you think we're all the better without the 
kites." 

"That's not what I'm thinking," said Herrick, 
in a voice strangely quiet, that yet echoed con- 
fusion in the captain's mind. 

"I know that," he cried, holding up his hand. 
"I know what you're thinking. No use to say 
it now. I'm sober." 

"I have to say it, though," returned Herrick. 

"Hold on, Herrick; you've said enough," said 
Davis. "You've said what I would take from 
no man breathing but yourself; only I know it's 
true." 

"I have to tell you, Captain Brown," pursued 
Herrick, "that I resign my position as mate. 
You can put me in irons or shoot me, as you 
please. I will make no resistance; only I decline 
in any way to help or to obey you; and 1 suggest 
you should put Mr. Huish in my place. He will 
make a worthy first officer to your captain, sir." 
He smiled, bowed, and turned to walk forward. 

"Where are you going, Herrick?" cried the 
captain, detaining him by the shoulder. 

"To berth forward with the men, sir," replied 
Herrick, with the same hateful smile. "I've 
been long enough aft here with you gentle- 
men." 

"You're wrong there, "said Davis. " Don't you 
be too quick with me ; there ain't nothing wrong 
but the drink it's the old story, man! Let me 
get sober once, and then you'll see," he pleaded. 

85 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Excuse me, I desire to see no more of you," 
said Herrick. 

The captain groaned aloud. "You know what 
you said about my children?" he broke out. 

"By rote. In case you wish me to say it to 
you again?" asked Herrick. 

" Don't 1 " cried the captain, clapping his hands 
to his ears. "Don't make me kill a man I care 
for! Herrick, if you see me put a glass to my 
lips again till we're ashore, I give you leave to 
put a bullet through me. I beg you to do it! 
You're the only man aboard whose carcass is 
worth losing. Do you think I don't know that? 
Do you think I ever went back on you? I 
always knew that you were in the right of it; 
drunk or sober, I knew that. What do you want? 
An oath? Man, you're clever enough to see that 
this is sure-enough earnest." 

"Do you mean there shall be no more drink- 
ing," asked Herrick; "neither by you nor Huish? 
That you won't go on stealing my profits and 
drinking my champagne, that I gave my honour 
for? And that you'll attend to your duties, 
and stand watch and watch, and bear your 
proper share of the ship's work, instead of leav- 
ing it all on the shoulders of a landsman, and 
making yourself the butt and scoff of native 
seamen? Is that what you mean? If it is, be 
so good as to say it categorically." 

"You put these things in a way hard for a 
gentleman to swallow," said the captain. "You 

86 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

wouldn't have me say I was ashamed of myself? 
Trust me this once! I'll do the square thing; 
and there's my hand on it." 

"Well, I'll try it once," said Herrick. "Fail 
me again " 

"No more now!" interrupted Davis. "No 
more, old man! Enough said. You've a riling 
tongue when your back's up, Herrick. Just be 
glad we're friends again, the same as what I am, 
and go tender on the raws. I'll see as you don't 
repent it. We've been mighty near death this 
day, don't say whose fault it was! pretty near 
hell, too, I guess. We're in a mighty bad line 
of life, us two, and ought to go easy with each 
other." 

He was maundering ; yet it seemed as if he were 
maundering with some design, beating about the 
bush of some communication that he feared to 
make, or perhaps only talking against time, in 
terror of what Herrick might say next. But 
Herrick had now spat his venom. His was a 
kindly nature, and, content with his triumph, he 
had now begun to pity. With a few soothing 
words he sought to conclude the interview, and 
proposed that they should change their clothes. 

"Not right yet," said Davis. "There's an- 
other thing I want to tell you first. You know 
what you said about my children? I want to 
tell you why it hit me so hard ; I kind of think 
you'll feel bad about it, too. It's about my little 
Adar. You hadn't ought to have quite said that 

87 



THE EBB-TIDE 

but of course I know you didn't know. She 
she's dead, you see." 

"Why, Davis!" cried Herrick. "You've told 
me a dozen times she was alive! Clear your 
head, man! This must be the drink." 

"No, sir," said Davis. "She's dead, right 
enough. Died of a bowel complaint. That was 
when I was away in the brig Oregon. She lies 
in Portland, Maine. 'Adar, only daughter of 
Captain John Davis and Mariar his wife, aged 
five.' I had a doll for her on board. I never 
took the paper off'n that doll, Herrick; it went 
down the way it was with the Sea Ranger, that 
day I was damned." 

The captain's eyes were fixed on the horizon; 
he talked with an extraordinary softness, but a 
complete composure; and Herrick looked upon 
him with something that was almost terror. 

"Don't think I'm crazy, neither," resumed 
Davis. "I've all the cold sense that I know 
what to do with. But I guess a man that's un- 
happy 's like a child; and this is a kind of a child's 
game of mine. I never could act up to the plain- 
cut truth, you see. So I pretend. And I warn 
you square: as soon as we're through with this 
talk, I'll start in again with the pretending. 
Only, you see, she can't walk no streets," added 
the captain; "couldn't even make out to live 
and get that doll!" 

Herrick laid a tremulous hand upon the cap- 
tain's shoulder. 

88 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

"Don't do that!" cried Davis, recoiling from 
the touch. "Can't you see I'm all broken up 
the way it is? Come along, then; come along, 
old man. You can put your trust in me right 
through. Come along and get dry clothes." 

They entered the cabin, and there was Huish 
on his knees, prising open a case of cham- 
pagne. 

"Vast there!" cried the captain. "No more 
of that. No more drinking on this ship." 

"Turned teetotal, 'ave you? " inquired Huish. 
"I'm agreeable. About time, eh? Bloomin' 
nearly lost another ship, I fancy." He took out 
a bottle, and began calmly to burst the wire with 
the spike of a corkscrew. 

"Do you hear me speak?" cried Davis. 

"I suppose I do. You speak loud enough," 
said Huish. "The trouble is that I don't care." 

Herrick plucked the captain's sleeve. "Let 
him be now," isaid he; "we've had all we want 
this evening." 

"Let him have it, then," said the captain. 
"It's his last." 

By this time the wire was open, the string was 
cut, the head of gilded paper was torn away, 
and Huish waited, mug in hand, expecting the 
usual explosion. It did not follow. He eased 
the cork with his thumb ; still there was no result. 
At last he took the screw and drew it. It came 
out very easy and with scarce a sound. 

" 'Illo!" said Huish, " 'ere's a bad bottle." 
89 



THE EBB-TIDE 

He poured some of the wine into the mug; it 
was colourless and still. He smelt and tasted 
it. 

"W'y, wot's this?" he said. "It's water!" 

If the voice of trumpets had suddenly sounded 
about the ship in the midst of the sea, the three 
men in the house could scarce have been more 
stunned than by this incident. The mug passed 
round; each sipped, each smelt of it; each stared 
at the bottle, in its glory of gold paper, as Crusoe 
may have stared at the footprint; and their 
minds were swift to fix upon a common appre- 
hension. The difference between a bottle of 
champagne and a bottle of water is not great; 
between a shipload of one or of the other lay 
the whole scale from riches to ruin. 

A second bottle was broached. There were 
two cases standing ready in a stateroom. These 
two were brought out, broken open, and tested ; 
still with the same result : the contents were still 
colourless and tasteless, and dead as the rain in a 
beached fishing-boat. 

"Crikey!" said Huish. 

"Here, let's sample the hold!" said the cap- 
tain, mopping his brow with a back-handed 
sweep; and the three stalked out of the house, 
grim and heavy-footed. 

All hands were turned out: two Kanakas were 
sent below, another stationed at a purchase, and 
Davis, axe in hand, took his place beside the 
coaming. 

90 



THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE 

"Are you going to let the men know?" whis- 
pered Herrick. 

" Damn the men ! " said Davis. " It's beyond 
that. We've got to know ourselves." 

Three cases were sent on deck and sampled 
in turn; from each bottle, as the captain smashed 
it with the axe, the champagne ran bubbling 
and creaming. 

"Go deeper, can't you?" cried Davis to the 
Kanakas in the hold. 

The command gave the signal for a disastrous 
change. Case after case came up, bottle after 
bottle was burst, and bled mere water. Deeper 
yet, and they came upon a layer where there was 
scarcely so much as the intention to deceive, 
where the cases were no longer branded, the 
bottles no longer wired or papered; where the 
fraud was manifest, and stared them in the face. 

"Here's al^out enough of this foolery!" said 
Davis. " Stow back the cases in the hold, Uncle, 
and get the broken crockery overboard. Come 
with me," he added to his co-adventurers, and 
led the way back into the cabin. 



91 



CHAPTER VI 

THE PARTNERS 

EACH took a side of the fixed table. It was 
the first time they had sat down at it to- 
gether; but now all sense of incongruity, all mem- 
ory of differences, was quite swept away by the 
presence of the common ruin. 

"Gentlemen," said the captain, after a pause, 
and with very much the air of a chairman open- 
ing a board meeting, "we're sold." 

Huish broke out in laughter. "Well, if this 
ain't the 'ighest old rig ! " he cried. " And Dyvis 
'ere, who thought he had got up so bloomin' 
early in the mornin'I We've stolen a cargo of 
spring-water ! Oh, my crikey ! ' ' and he squirmed 
with mirth. 

The captain managed to screw out a phantom 
smile. 

"Here's Old Man Destiny again," said he to 
Herrick; "but this time I guess he's kicked the 
door right in." 

Herrick only shook his head. 

"Oh, Lord, it's rich!" laughed Huish. "It 
would really be a scrumptious lark if it 'ad 'ap- 

92 



THE PARTNERS 

pened to somebody else. And wot are we to 
do next? Oh, my eye! with this bloomin' 
schooner, too." 

"That's the trouble," said Davis. "There's 
only one thing certain: it's no use carting this 
old glass and ballast to Peru. No, sir, we're in 
a hole." 

"Oh, my! and the merchant!" cried Huish; 
"the man that made this shipment! He'll get 
the news by the mail brigantine, and he'll think 
of course we're making straight for Sydney." 

"Yes, he'll be a sick merchant," said the cap- 
tain. "One thing: this explains the Kanaka 
crew. If you're going to lose a ship, I would ask 
no better myself than a Kanaka crew. But 
there's one thing it don't explain: it don't ex- 
plain why she came down Tahiti-ways." 

"W'y, to lose her, you byby!" said Huish. 

"A lot you know," said the captain. "No- 
body wants to lose a schooner; they want to 
lose her on her course, you skeesicks ! You seem 
to think underwriters haven't got enough sense 
to come in out of the rain." 

"Well," said Herrick, "I can tell you, I am 
afraid, why she came so far to the eastward. I 
had it of Uncle Ned. It seems these two un- 
happy devils, Wiseman and Wishart, were drunk 
on the champagne from the beginning, and died 
drunk at the end." 

The captain looked on the table. 

"They lay in their two bunks, or sat here in 
93 



THE EBB-TIDE 

this damned house," he pursued, with rising 
agitation, "filling their skins with the accursed 
stuff, till sickness took them. As they sickened, 
and the fever rose, they drank the more. They 
lay here howling and groaning, drunk and dying, 
all in one. They didn't know where they were; 
they didn't care. They didn't even take the 
sun, it seems." 

" Not take the sun! " cried the captain, looking 
up. " Sacred Billy ! what a crowd ! ' ' 

"Well, it don't matter to Joe!" said Huish. 
"Wot are Wiseman and the t'other buffer to us?" 

"A good deal, too," said the captain. "WVre 
their heirs, I guess." 

"It is a great inheritance," said Herrick. 

"Well, I don't know about that," returned 
Davis. "Appears to me as if it might be worse. 
'T ain't what the cargo would have been, of 
course; at least, not money down. But I'll tell 
you what it appears to figure up to. Appears to 
me as if it amounted to about the bottom dollar 
of the man in 'Frisco." 

" 'Old on," said Huish. " Give a fellow time ; 
'ow's this, umpire?" 

"Well, my sons," pursued the captain, who 
seemed to have recovered his assurance, "Wise- 
man and Wishart were to be paid for casting 
away this old schooner and its cargo. We're go- 
ing to cast away the schooner right enough, and 
I'll make it my private business to see that we 
get paid. What were W. and W. to get? That's 

94 



THE PARTNERS 

more'n I can tell. But W. and W. went into 
this business themselves; they were on the crook. 
Now were on the square; we only stumbled into 
it; and that merchant has just got to squeal, and 
I'm the man to see that he squeals good. No, 
sir! there's some stuffing to this Farallone rack- 
et, after all." 

"Go it, cap!" cried Huish. "Yoicks! For- 
rard! 'Old 'ard! There's your style for the 
money! Blow me if I don't prefer this to the 
hother." 

"I do not understand," said Herrick. "I 
have to ask you to excuse me; I do not under- 
stand." 

"Well now, see here, Herrick," said Davis. 
" I'm going to have a word with you, anyway, 
upon a different matter, and it's good that Huish 
should hear it too. We're done with this boozing 
business, and we ask your pardon for it right here 
and now. We have to thank you for all you did 
for us while we were making hogs of ourselves. 
You'll find me turn-to all right in future; and as 
for the wine, which I grant we stole from you, 
I'll take stock and see you paid for it. That's 
good enough, I believe. But what I want to 
point out to you is this. The old game was a 
risky game. The new game's as safe as running 
a Vienna bakery. We just put this Farallone 
before the wind, and run till we're well to leeward 
of our port of departure, and reasonably well up 
with some other place where they have an Amer- 

95 



THE EBB-TIDE 

ican consul. Down goes the Farallone, and good- 
bye to her! A day or so in the boat; the consul 
packs us home, at Uncle Sam's expense, to 
'Frisco ; and if that merchant don't put the dol- 
lars down, you come to me!" 

"But I thought " began Herrick; and then 

broke out, "Oh, let's get on to Peru!" 

" Well, if you're going to Peru for your health, 
I won't say no," replied the captain. "But for 
what other blame' shadow of a reason you should 
want to go there, gets me clear. We don't want 
to go there with this cargo. I don't know as 
old bottles is a lively article anywheres; least- 
ways I'll go my bottom cent it ain't in Peru. It 
was always a doubt if we could sell the schooner; 
I never rightly hoped to, and now I'm sure she 
ain't worth a hill of beans. What's wrong with 
her, I don't know. I only know it's something, 
or she wouldn't be here with this truck in her 
inside. Then, again, if we lose her, and land in 
Peru, where are we? We can't declare the loss, 
or how did we get to Peru? In that case the 
merchant can't touch the insurance; most likely 
he'll go bust; and don't you think you see the 
three of us on the beach of Callao?" 

"There's no extradition there," said Herrick. 

"Well, my son, and we want to be extra- 
dished," said the captain. "What's our point? 
We want to have a consul extradish us as far as 
San Francisco and that merchant's office door. 
My idea is that Samoa would be found an eligible 

96 



THE PARTNERS 

business centre. It's dead before the wind; the 
States have a consul there, and 'Frisco steam- 
ers call, so's we could skip right back and inter- 
view the merchant." 

"Samoa?" said Herrick. "It will take us 
for ever to get there." 

"Oh, with a fair wind!" said the captain. 

"No trouble about the log, eh?" asked Huish. 

" No, sir," said Davis. " Light airs and baffling 
winds. Squalls and calms. D. R.: five miles. No 
obs. Pumps attended. And fill in the barometer 
and thermometer off of last year's trip. ' Never 
saw such a voyage,' says you to the consul. 

* Thought I was going to run short " He 

stopped in mid-career. "Say," he began again, 
and once more stopped. "Beg your pardon, 
Herrick," he added, with undisguised hiimility, 
"but did you keep the run of the stores?" 

"Had I been told to do so, it should have been 
done, as the rest was done, to the best of my 
little ability," said Herrick. "As it was, the 
cook helped himself to what he pleased." 

Davis looked at the table. 

"I drew it rather fine, you see," he said at 
last. "The great thing was to clear right out 
of Papeete before the consul could think better 
of it. Tell you what : I guess I'll take stock." 

And he rose from the table, and disappeared 
with a lamp in the lazaretto. 

"Ere's another screw loose," observed Huish. 

"My man," said Herrick, with a sudden gleam 
97 



THE EBB-TIDE 

of animosity, "it is still your watch on deck, 
and surely your wheel also?" 

"You come the 'eavy swell, don't you, ducky?" 
said Huish. "Stand away from that binnacle. 
'Surely your w'eel, my man.' Yah!" 

He lit a cigar ostentatiously, and strolled into 
the waist with his hands in his pockets. 

In a surprisingly short time the captain reap- 
peared; he did not look at Herrick, but called 
Huish back and sat down. 

"Well," he began, "I've taken stock rough- 
ly." He paused, as if for somebody to help him 
out; and none doing so, both gazing on him in- 
stead with manifest anxiety, he yet more heavily 
resumed: "Well, it won't fight. We can't do 
it; that's the bed-rock. I'm as sorry as what 
you can be, and sorrier. But the game's up. 
We can't look near Samoa. I don't know as 
we could get to Peru." 

"Wot-ju mean?" asked Huish, brutally. 

" I can't 'most tell myself," replied the captain. 
"I drew it fine; I said I did; but what's been 
going on here gets me ! Appears as if the devil 
had been around. That cook must be the holiest 
kind of a fraud. Only twelve days, too ! Seems 
like craziness. I'll own up square to one thing: 
I seem to have figured too fine upon the flour. 
But the rest my land! I'll never understand 
it ! There's been more waste on this two-penny 
ship than what there is to an Atlantic Liner." 
He stole a glance at his companions; nothing 

98 



THE PARTNERS 

good was to be gleaned from their dark faces; 
and he had recourse to rage. "You wait till 
I interview that cook!" he roared, and smote 
the table with his fist. "I'll interview the son 
of a gun as he's never been spoken to before. 
I'll put a bead upon the 1" 

"You will not lay a finger on the man," said 
Herrick. "The fault is yours, and you know it. 
If you turn a savage loose in your store-room, 
you know what to expect. I will not allow the 
man to be molested." 

It is hard to say how Davis might have taken 
this defiance, but he was diverted to a fresh 
assailant. 

"Well!" drawled Huish, "you're a plummy 
captain, ain't you? You're a blooming captain! 
Don't you set up any of your chat to me, John 
Dyvis. I know you now; you ain't any more 
use than a bloomin' dawl! Oh, you 'don't 
know,' don't you? Oh, it * gets you,' do it? Oh, 
I dessay! Wy, weren't you 'owling for fresh 
tins every blessed day? 'Ow often 'ave I 'eard 
you send the 'ole bloomin' dinner off, and tell 
the man to chuck it in the swill-tub? And break- 
fast? Oh, my crikey 1 Breakfast for ten, and 
you 'ollerin' for more! And now you 'can't 
'most tell ' ! Blow me if it ain't enough to make 
a man write an insultin' letter to Gawd! You 
dror it mild, John Dyvis. Don't 'andle me; I'm 
dyngerous." 

Davis sat like one bemused; it might even have 

99 



THE EBB-TIDE 

been doubted if he heard. But the voice of the 
clerk rang about the cabin like that of a cormo- 
rant among the ledges of a cliff. 

"That will do, Huish," said Herrick. 

" Oh, so you tyke his part, do you, you stuck- 
up, sneerin' snobP Tyke it, then. Come on, 
the pair of you! But as for John Dyvis, let 
him look out! He struck me the first night 
aboard, and I never took a blow yet but wot 
I gave as good. Let him knuckle down on his 
marrow-bones and beg my pardon; that's my 
last word!" 

" I stand by the captain," said Herrick. " That 
makes us two to one, both good men; and the 
crew will all follow me. I hope I shall die very 
soon; but I have not the least objection to killing 
you before I go. I should prefer it so. I should 
do it with no more remorse than winking. Take 
care, take care, you little cad!" 

The animosity with which these words were 
uttered was so marked in itself, and so remark- 
able in the man who uttered them, that Huish 
stared, and even the humiliated Davis reared 
up his head and gazed at his defender. As for 
Herrick, the successive agitations and disappoint- 
ments of the day had left him wholly reckless; 
he was conscious of a pleasant glow, an agreeable 
excitement. His head seemed empty; his eye- 
balls burned as he turned them; his throat was 
dry as a biscuit. The least dangerous man by 
nature, except in so far as the weak are always 

100 



THE PARTNERS 

dangerous, at that moment he was ready to slay 
or be slain, with equal unconcern. 

Here, at least, was the gage thrown down, and 
battle offered. He who should speak next would 
bring the matter to an issue there and then. All 
knew it to be so, and hung back; and for many 
seconds by the cabin clock the trio sat motion- 
less and silent. 

Then came an interruption, welcome as the 
flowers in May. 

* ' Land ho ! " sang out a voice on deck. * ' Land 
a weatha bow!" 

"Land!" cried Davis, springing to his feet. 
"What's this? There ain't no land here." 

And, as men may run from the chamber of a 
murdered corpse, the three ran forth out of the 
house, and left their quarrel behind them, un- 
decided. 

The sky shaded down at the sea-level to the 
white of opal; the sea itself, insolently, inkily 
blue, drew all about them the uncompromising 
wheel of the horizon. Search jt as they pleased, 
not even the practised eye of Captain Davis 
could descry the smallest interruption. A few 
filmy clouds were slowly melting overhead; and 
about the schooner, as around the only point 
of interest, a tropic bird, white as a snowflake, 
hung and circled, and displayed, as it turned, 
the long vermilion feather of its tail. Save the 
sea and the heaven, that was all. 

"Who sang out land?" asked Davis. "If 
101 



THE EBB-TIDE 

there's any boy playing funny-dog with me, I'll 
teach him sky-larking!" 

But Uncle Ned contentedly pointed to a part 
of the horizon where a greenish, filmy iridescence 
could be discerned, floating like smoke on the 
pale heavens. 

Davis applied his glass to it, and then looked 
at the Kanaka. "Call that land?" said he. 
"Well, it's more than I do!" 

"One time, long ago," said Uncle Ned, "I see 
Anaa all-e-same that, four, five hours befo' we 
come up. Capena he say sun go down, sun go 
up again; he say lagoon all-e-same milla." 

"All-e-same what?" asked Davis. 

"Milla, sah," said Uncle Ned. 

"Oh, ah! mirror," said Davis. "I see, re- 
flection from the lagoon. Well, you know, it is 
just possible, though it's strange I never heard 
of it. Here, let's look at the chart." 

They went back to the cabin, and found the 
position of the schooner well to windward of the 
archipelago, in the midst of a white field of paper. 

"There, you see for yourselves!" said Davis. 

"And yet I don't know," said Herrick; "I 
somehow think there's something in it. I'll tell 
you one thing, too, captain: that's all right about 
the reflection; I heard it in Papeete." 

"Fetch up that Findlay, then!" said Davis; 
"I'll try it all ways. An island wouldn't come 
amiss the way we're fixed." 

The bulky volume was handed up to him, 
102 



THE PARTNERS 

brokenbacked, as is the way with Findlay; and 
he turned to the place, and began to run over 
the text, muttering to himself, and turning over 
the pages with a wetted finger. 

"Hullo!" he exclaimed; "how's this?" And 
he read aloud: "New Island. According to M. 
Delille, this island, which from private interests 
would remain unknown, lies, it is said, in lat. 12 
49' 10" S., long. 133 6' W. In addition to the 
position above given, Commander Matthews, H. 
M. S. Scorpion, states that an island exists in 
lat. 12 0' S., long. 133 16' W. This must be 
the same, if such an island exists, which is very 
doubtful, and totally disbelieved in by South Sea 
traders." 

"Golly!" said Huish. 

"It's rather in the conditional mood," said 
Herrick. 

"It's anything you please," cried Davis, "only 
there it is! That's our place, and don't you 
make any mistake." 

"Which from private interests would remain 
unknown,'" read Herrick, over his shoulder. 
"What may that mean?" 

"It should mean pearls," said Davis. "A 
pearling island the Government don't know 
about. That sounds like real estate. Or suppose 
it don't mean anything. Suppose it's just an 
island; I guess we could fill up with fish and 
cocoa-nuts and native stuff, and carry out the 
Samoa scheme hand over fist. How long did he 

103 



THE EBB-TIDE 

say it was before they raised Anaa? Five hours, 
I think." 

"Four or five," said Herrick. 

Davis stepped to the door. "What breeze 
had you that time you made Anaa, Uncle Ned? " 
said he. 

"Six or seven knots," was the reply. 

"Thirty or thirty-five miles," said Davis. 
"High time we were shortening sail, then. If it 
is an island we don't want to be butting our head 
against it in the dark; and if it isn't an island, 
we can get through it just as well by daylight. 
Ready about!" he roared. 

And the schooner's head was laid for that 
elusive glimmer in the sky, which began already 
to pale in lustre and diminish in size, as the stain 
of breath vanishes from a window-pane. At the 
same time she was reefed close down. 



104 



PART II 
THE QUARTETTE 



CHAPTER VII 

THE PEARL-FISHER 

k BOUT four in the morning, as the captain 
and Herrick sat together on the rail, there 
arose from the midst of the night, in front of 
them, the voice of breakers. Each sprang to his 
feet and stared and listened. The sound was 
continuous, like the passing of a train; no rise 
or fall could be distinguished ; minute by minute 
the ocean heaved with an equal potency against 
the invisible isle; and as time passed, and Her- 
rick waited in vain for any vicissitude in the 
volume of that roaring, a sense of the eternal 
weighed upon his mind. To the expert eye, the 
isle itself was to be inferred from a certain 
string of blots along the starry heaven. And 
the schooner was laid to and anxiously observed 
till daylight. 

There was little or no morning bank. A 
brightening came in the east; then a wash of 
some ineffable, faint, nameless hue between crim- 
son and silver; and then coals of fire. These 
glimmered a while on the sea-line, and seemed to 
brighten and darken and spread out; and still 

107 



THE EBB-TIDE 

the night and the stars reigned undisturbed. 
It was as though a spark should catch and glow 
and creep along the foot of some heavy and al- 
most incombustible wall-hanging, and the room 
itself be scarce menaced. Yet a little after, and 
the whole east glowed with gold and scarlet, and 
the hollow of heaven was filled with the daylight. 

The isle the undiscovered, the scarce-believ- 
ed in now lay before them and close aboard; 
and Herrick thought that never in his dreams 
had he beheld anything more strange and deli- 
cate. The beach was excellently white, the con- 
tinuous barrier of trees inimitably green ; the land 
perhaps ten feet high, the trees thirty more. 
Every here and there, as the schooner coasted 
northward, the wood was intermitted; and he 
could see clear over the inconsiderable strip of 
land (as a man looks over a wall) to the lagoon 
within; and clear over that again to where the 
far side of the atoll prolonged its pencilling of 
trees against the morning sky. He tortured him- 
self to find analogies. The isle was like the rim 
of a great vessel sunken in the waters; it was like 
the embankment of an annular railway grown 
upon with wood: so slender it seemed amidst 
the outrageous breakers, so frail and pretty, he 
would scarce have wondered to see it sink and 
disappear without a sound, and the waves close 
smoothly over its descent. 

Meanwhile the captain was in the forecross- 
trees, glass in hand, his eyes in every quarter, 

108 



THE PEARL-FISHER 

spying for an entrance, spying for signs of ten- 
ancy. But the isle continued to unfold itself 
in joints and to run out in indeterminate capes, 
and still there was neither house nor man nor 
the smoke of fire. Here a multitude of sea-birds 
soared and twinkled and fished in the blue 
waters; and there, and for miles together, the 
fringe of cocoa-palm and pandanus extended 
desolate, and made desirable green bowers for no- 
body to visit ; and the silence of death was only 
broken by the throbbing of the sea. 

The airs were very light, their speed was small; 
the heat intense. The decks were scorching un- 
derfoot; the sun flamed overhead, brazen out of 
a brazen sky; the pitch bubbled in the seams, 
and the brains in the brain-pan. And all the 
while the excitement of the three adventurers 
glowed about their bones like a fever. They 
whispered and nodded and pointed and put 
mouth to ear with a singular instinct of secrecy, 
approaching that island underhand, like eaves- 
droppers and thieves; and even Davis, from the 
cross-trees, gave his orders mostly by gestures. 
The hands shared in this mute strain, like dogs, 
without comprehending it ; and through the roar 
of so many miles of breakers, it was a silent ship 
that approached an empty island. 

At last they drew near to the break in that in- 
terminable gangway. A spur of coral sand stood 
forth on the one hand ; on the other, a high and 
thick tuft of trees cut off the view ; between was 

109 



THE EBB-TIDE 

the mouth of the huge laver. Twice a day the 
ocean crowded in that narrow entrance and was 
heaped between these frail walls; twice a day, 
with the return of the ebb, the mighty surplusage 
of water must struggle to escape. The hour 
in which the Farallone came there was the hour 
of flood. The sea turned (as with the instinct 
of the homing pigeon) for the vast receptacle, 
swept eddying through the gates, was trans- 
muted, as it did so, into a wonder of watery and 
silken hues, and brimmed into the inland sea 
beyond. The schooner worked up, close-hauled, 
and was caught and carried away by the influx 
like a toy. She skimmed; she flew; a momen- 
tary shadow touched her decks from the shore- 
side trees; the bottom of the channel showed up 
for a moment, and was in a moment gone; the 
next, she floated on the bosom of the lagoon; and 
below, in the transparent chamber of waters, a 
myriad of many-coloured fishes were sporting, 
a myriad pale flowers of coral diversified the 
floor. 

Herrick stood transported. In the gratified 
lust of his eye he forgot the past and the present ; 
forgot that he was menaced by a prison on the 
one hand and starvation on the other; forgot that 
he was come to that island, desperately forag- 
ing, clutching at expedients. A drove of fishes 
painted like the rainbow and billed like parrots, 
hovered up in the shadow of the schooner, and 
passed clear of it, and glinted in the submarine 

110 



THE PEARL-FISHER 

sun. They were beautiful, like birds, and their 
silent passage impressed him like a strain of song. 
Meanwhile, to the eye of Davis in the cross- 
trees, the lagoon continued to expand its empty 
waters and the long succession of the shoreside 
trees to be paid out like fishing-line off a reel. 
And still there was no mark of habitation. The 
schooner, immediately on entering, had been 
kept away to the northward, where the water 
seemed to be the most deep; and she was now 
skimming past the tall grove of trees, which 
stood on that side of the channel and denied 
further view. Of the whole of the low shores 
of the island, only this bight remained to be 
revealed. And suddenly the curtain was raised ; 
they began to open out a haven, snugly elbowed 
there, and beheld, with an astonishment beyond 
words, the roofs of men. The appearance, thus 
"instantaneously disclosed" to those on the deck 
of the Farallone, was not that of a city, rather of 
a substantial country farm with its attendant 
hamlet, a long line of sheds and store-houses; 
apart, upon the one side, a deep-verandahed 
dwelling-house; on the other, perhaps a dozen 
native huts, a building with a belfry and some 
rude offer at architectural features that might be 
thought to mark it out for a chapel; on the beach 
in front, some heavy boats drawn up, and a pile of 
timber running forth into the burning shallows 
of the lagoon. From a flag-staff at the pierhead, 
the red ensign of England was displayed. Be- 
Ill 



THE EBB-TIDE 

hind, about, and over, the same tall grove of 
palms which had masked the settlement in the 
beginning, prolonged its roof of tumultuous green 
fans, and tossed and ruffled overhead, and sang 
its silver song all day in the wind. The place 
had the indescribable but unmistakable appear- 
ance of being in commission, yet there breathed 
from it a sense of desertion that was almost 
poignant; no human figure was to be observed 
going to and fro about the houses, and there was 
no sound of human industry or enjoyment. Only, 
on the top of the beach and hard by the flag-staff, 
a woman of exorbitant stature and as white as 
snow was to be seen, beckoning with uplifted 
arm. The second glance identified her as a piece 
of naval sculpture, the figure-head of a ship that 
had long hovered and plunged into so many 
running billows, and was now brought ashore to 
be the ensign and presiding genius of that empty 
town. 

' The Farallone made a soldier's breeze of it ; the 
wind, besides, was stronger inside than without 
under the lee of the land ; and the stolen schooner 
opened out successive objects with the swiftness 
of a panorama, so that the adventurers stood 
speechless. The flag spoke for itself; it was no 
frayed and weathered trophy that had beaten 
itself to pieces on the post, flying over desolation; 
and, to make assurance stronger, there was to 
be descried, in the deep shade of the verandah, 
a glitter of crystal and the fluttering of white 

112 






THE PEARL-FISHER 

napery. If the figure-head at the pier-end, with 
its perpetual gesture and its leprous whiteness, 
reigned alone in that hamlet, as it seemed to do, 
it could not have reigned long. Men's hands 
had been busy, men's feet stirring there, within 
the circuit of the clock. The Farallones were 
sure of it; their eyes dug in the deep shadow of 
the palms for some one hiding. If intensity of 
looking might have prevailed, they would have 
pierced the walls of houses; and there came to 
them, in these pregnant seconds, a sense of being 
watched and played with, and of a blow impend- 
ing, that was hardly bearable. 

The extreme point of palms they had just 
passed enclosed a creek, which was thus hidden 
up td the last moment from the eyes of those on 
board; and from this a boat put suddenly and 
briskly out, and a voice hailed. 

"Schooner ahoy ! " it cried. " Stand in for the 
pier! In two cables' lengths you'll have twenty 
fathoms' water and good holding-ground." 

The boat was manned with a couple of brown 
oarsmen in scanty kilts of blue. The speaker, 
who was steering, wore white clothes, the full 
dress of the tropics. A wide hat shaded his 
face ; but it could be seen that he was of stalwart 
size, and his voice sounded like a gentleman's. 
So much could be made out. It was plain, be- 
sides, that the Farallone had been descried some 
time before at sea, and the inhabitants were pre- 
pared for its reception. 

113 
i 



THE EBB-TIDE 

Mechanically the orders were obeyed, and the 
ship berthed ; and the three adventurers gathered 
aft beside the house and waited, with galloping 
pulses and a perfect vacancy of mind, the coming 
of the stranger who might mean so much to them. 
They had no plan, no story prepared, there was 
no time to make one, they were caught red- 
handed, and must stand their chance. Yet this 
anxiety was checkered with hope. The island 
being undeclared, it was not possible the man 
could hold any office or be in a position to de- 
mand their papers. And beyond that, if there 
was any truth in Findlay, as it now seemed there 
should be, he was the representative of the "pri- 
vate reasons"; and must see their coming with a 
profound disappointment; and perhaps (hope 
whispered) he would be willing and able to pur- 
chase their silence. 

The boat was by that time forging alongside, 
and they were able at last to see what manner 
of man they had to do with. He was a huge 
fellow, six feet four in height, and of a build pro- 
portionately strong, but his sinews seemed to 
be dissolved in a listlessness that was more than 
languor. It was only the eye that corrected 
this impression, an eye of an unusual mingled 
brilliancy and softness, sombre as coal, and with 
lights that outshone the topaz ; an eye of unim- 
paired health and virility; an eye that bid you 
beware of the man's devastating anger. A com- 
plexion naturally dark had been tanned in the 

114 



THE PEARL-FISHER 

island to a hue hardly distinguishable from that 
of a Tahitian ; only his manners and movements, 
and the living force that dwelt in him, like fire 
in flint, betrayed the European. He was dressed 
in white drill, exquisitely made; his scarf and tie 
were of tender-coloured silks; on the thwart be- 
side him there leaned a Winchester rifle. 

" Is the doctor on board? " he cried, as he came 
up. "Dr. Symonds, I mean? You never heard 
of him? Nor yet of the Trinity Hall? Ah!" 
He did not look surprised; seemed, rather, to 
affect it in politeness; but his eye rested on each 
of the three white men in succession with a sud- 
den weight of curiosity that was almost savage. 
"Ah,*then," said he, "there is some small mis- 
take, no doubt, and I must ask you to what I 
am indebted for this pleasure?" 

He was by this time on the deck, but he had 
the art to be quite unapproachable; the friend- 
liest vulgarian, three parts drunk, would have 
known better than take liberties; and not one 
of the adventurers so much as offered to shake 
hands. 

"Well," said Davis, "I suppose you may call 
it an accident. We had heard of your island, 
and read that thing in the ' Directory ' about the 
private reasons, you see; so when we saw the 
lagoon reflected in the sky, we put her head for 
it at once, and here we are." 

"Ope we don't intrude!" said Huish. 

The stranger looked at Huish with an air of 
115 



THE EBB-TIDE 

faint surprise, and looked pointedly away again. 
It was hard to be more offensive in dumb-show. 

"It may suit me, your coming here," he said. 
"My own schooner is overdue, and I may put 
something in your way in the meantime. Are 
you open to a charter?" 

"Well, I guess so," said Davis; "it depends." 

"My name is Attwater," continued the stran- 
ger. "You, I presume, are the captain?" 

"Yes, sir. I am the captain of this ship. 
Captain Brown," was the reply. 

"Well, see 'ere!" said Huish, "better begin 
fair! 'E's skipper on deck right enough, but not 
below. Below we're all equal, all got a lay in 
the adventure. When it comes to business, I'm 
as good as 'e; and what I say is, let's go into the 
'ouse and have a lush, and talk it over among 
pals. We've some prime fizz," he said, and 
winked. 

The presence of the gentleman lighted up like 
a candle the vulgarity of the clerk; and Herrick, 
instinctively, as one shields himself from pain, 
made haste to interrupt. 

"My name is Hay," said he, "since introduc- 
tions are going. We shall be very glad if you 
will step inside." 

Attwater leaned to him swiftly. "University 
man?" said he. 

"Yes, Merton," said Herrick, and the next 
moment blushed scarlet at his indiscretion. 

" I am of the other lot," said Attwater; "Trin- 
116 



THE PEARL-FISHER 

ity Hall, Cambridge. I called my schooner after 
the old shop. Well! this is a queer place and 
company for us to meet in, Mr. Hay," he pur- 
sued, with easy incivility to the others. "But 
do you bear out I beg this gentleman's pardon, 
I really did not catch his name." 

"My name is 'Uish, sir," returned the clerk, 
and blushed in turn. 

"Ah!" said Attwater. And then turning 
again to Herrick, "Do you bear out Mr. Whish's 
description of your vintage, or was it only the un- 
affected poetry of his own nature bubbling up? " 

Herrick was embarrassed ; the silken brutality 
of their visitor made him blush. That he should 
be accepted as an equal, and the others thus 
pointedly ignored, pleased him in spite of him- 
self, and then ran through his veins in a recoil 
of anger. 

"I don't know,*' he said. "It's only Cali- 
fornia; it's good enough, I believe." 

Attwater seemed to make up his mind . " Well, 
then, I'll tell you what: you three gentlemen 
come ashore this evening, and bring a basket of 
wine with you; I'll try and find the food," he 
said. "And by the by, here is a question I 
should have asked you when I came on board ; 
Have you had smallpox?" 

"Personally, no," said Herrick. "But the 
schooner had it." 

"Deaths?" from Attwater. 

"Two," said Herrick. , 

117 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Well, it is a dreadful sickness," said Alt- 
water. 

"'Ad you any deaths," asked Huish, '"ere on 
the island?" 

"Twenty-nine," said Attwater. "Twenty- 
nine deaths and thirty-one cases, out of thirty- 
three souls upon the island. That's a strange 
way to calculate, Mr. Hay, is it not? Souls! I 
never say it but it startles me." 

"Oh, so that's why everything's deserted?" 
said Huish. 

"That is why, Mr. Whish," said Attwater; 
"that is why the house is empty and the grave- 
yard full." 

"Twenty-nine out of thirty-three!" exclaimed 
Herrick. "Why, when it came to burying or 
did you bother burying?" 

"Scarcely," said Attwater; "or there was one 
day at least when we gave up. There were five 
of the dead that morning, and thirteen of the 
dying, and no one able to go about except the 
sexton and myself. We held a council of war, 
took the . . . empty bottles into the lagoon, 
and . . . buried them." He looked over his 
shoulder, back at the bright water. "Well, so 
you'll come to dinner, then? Shall we say half- 
past six? So good of you!" 

His voice, in uttering these conventional 
phrases, fell at once into the false measure of 
society; and Herrick unconsciously followed the 
example. 

118 



THE PEARL-FISHER 

"I am sure we shall be very glad," he said. 
"At half-past six? Thank you so very much." 

" ' For my voice has been tuned to the note of the gun 
That startles the deep when the combat's begun,' " 

quoted Attwater, with a smile, which instantly 
gave way to an air of funereal solemnity. "I 
shall particularly expect Mr. Whish," he con- 
tinued. "Mr. Whish, I trust you understand 
the invitation?" 

"I believe you, my boy!" replied the genial 
Huish. 

"That is right, then; and quite understood, 
is it not?" said Attwater. "Mr. Whish and 
Captain Brown at six-thirty without fail; and 
you, Hay, at four sharp." 

And he called his boat. 

During all this talk, a load of thought or 
anxiety had weighed upon the captain. There 
was no part for which nature had so liberally 
endowed him as that of the genial ship-captain. 
But to-day he was silent and abstracted. Those 
who knew him could see that he hearkened close 
to every syllable, and seemed to ponder and try 
it in balances. It would have been hard to say 
what look there was, cold, attentive, and sinister, 
as of a man maturing plans, which still brooded 
over the unconscious guest; it was here, it was 
there, it was nowhere; it was now so little that 
Herrick chid himself for an idle fancy ; and anon 

119 



THE EBB-TIDE 

it was so gross and palpable that you could say 
every hair on the man's head talked mischief. 

He woke up now, as with a start. "You were 
talking of a charter," said he. 

"Was I?" said Attwater. "Well, let's talk 
of it no more at present." 

"Your own schooner is overdue, I under- 
stand?" continued the captain. 

" You understand perfectly, Captain Brown," 
said Attwater; "thirty-three days overdue at 
noon to-day." 

" She comes and goes, eh? Flies between here 
and . . . ?" hinted the captain. 

"Exactly; every four months; three trips in 
the year," said Attwater. 

"You go in her ever?" asked Davis. 

"No, I stop here," said Attwater; "one has 
plenty to attend to here." 

" Stop here, do you? " cried Davis. " Say, how 
long?" 

"How long, Lord!" said Attwater, with per- 
fect, stern gravity. "But it does not seem so," 
he added, with a smile. 

"No, I daresay not," said Davis. "No, I 
suppose not. Not with all your gods about you, 
and in as snug a berth as this. For it is a pretty 
snug berth," said he, with a sweeping look. 

"The spot, as you are good enough to indicate, 
is not entirely intolerable," was the reply. 

"Shell, I suppose?" said Davis. 

"Yes, there was shell," said Attwater. 
120 






THE PEARL-FISHER 

"This is a considerable big beast of a lagoon, 
sir," said the captain. "Was there a was the 
fishing would you call the fishing anyways 
good?" 

"I don't know that I would call it anyways 
anything," said Attwater, "if you put it to me 
direct." 

"There were pearls, too?" said Davis. 

"Pearls, too," said Attwater. 

"Well, I give out!" laughed Davis, and his 
laughter rang cracked like a false piece. "If 
you're not going to tell, you're not going to tell, 
and there's an end to it." 

"There can be no reason why I should affect 
the least degree of secrecy about my island," 
returned Attwater; "that came wholly to an 
end with your arrival; and I am sure at any rate 
that gentlemen like you and Mr. Whish I should 
have always been charmed to make perfectly at 
home. The point on which we are now differing 
if you can call it a difference is one of times 
and seasons. I have some information which 
you think I might impart, and I think not. Well, 
we'll see to-night ! By-by , Whish ! " He stepped 
into his boat and shoved off. "All under- 
stood, then?" said he. "The captain and Mr. 
Whish at six-thirty, and you, Hay, at four 
precise. You understand that, Hay? Mind, I 
take no denial. If you're not there by the time 
named, there will be no banquet. No song, no 
supper, Mr. Whish!" 

121 



THE EBB-TIDE 

White birds whisked in the air above, a shoal 
of party-coloured fishes in the scarce denser 
medium below; between, like Mahomet's coffin, 
the boat drew away briskly on the surface, and 
its shadow followed it over the glittering floor 
of the lagoon. Attwater looked steadily back 
over his shoulders as he sat; he did not once re- 
move his eyes from the Farallone and the group 
on her quarter-deck beside the house, till his 
boat ground upon the pier. Thence, with an 
agile pace, he hurried ashore, and they saw his 
white clothes shining in the checkered dusk of 
the grove until the house received him. 

The captain, with a gesture and a speaking 
countenance, called the adventurers into the 
cabin. 

"Well," he said to Herrick, when they were 
seated, "there's one good job at least: he's taken 
to you in earnest." 

"Why should that be a good job?" said Her- 
rick. 

"Oh, you'll see how it pans out presently," 
returned Davis. "You go ashore and stand in 
with him, that's all! You'll get lots of pointers; 
you can find out what he has, and what the char- 
ter is, and who's the fourth man, for there's 
four of them, and we're only three." 

"And suppose I do, what next? " cried Herrick. 
' ' Answer me that ! ' ' 

"So I will, Robert Herrick," said the captain. 
"But first, let's see all clear. I guess you know," 

122 



THE PEARL-FISHER 

he said with an imperious solemnity, "I guess 
you know the bottom is about out of this Faral- 
lone speculation? I guess you know it's right 
out; and if this old island hadn't turned upright 
when it did, I guess you know where you and 
I and Huish would have been?" 

"Yes, I know that," said Herrick. "No mat- 
ter who's to blame, I know it. And what next? " 

"No matter who's to blame, you know it, 
' right enough," said the captain, " and I'm obliged 
to you for the reminder. Now here's this Att- 
water; what do you think of him?" 

"I do not know," said Herrick. "I am at- 
tracted and repelled. He was insufferably rude 
to you." 

"And you, Huish?" said the captain. 

Huish sat cleaning a favourite briar-root; he 
scarce looked up from that engrossing task. 
"Don't ast me what I think of him!" he said. 
"There's a day comin', I pray Gawd, when I 
can tell it him myself." 

"Huish means the same as what I do," said 
Davis. " When that man came stepping around, 
and saying: 'Look here, I'm Attwater' and you 
knew it was so, by God! I sized him right 
straight up. Here's the real article, I said, and 
I don't like it; here's the real, first-rate, copper- 
bottomed aristocrat. 'Aw! dont know ye, do I? 
God damn ye, did God make ye? ' No, that couldn't 
be nothing but genuine; a man's got to be born 
to that, and notice! smart as champagne and 

123 



THE EBB-TIDE 

hard as nails; no kind of a fool; no, sir! not a 
pound of him! Well, what's he here upon this 
beastly island for? I said. Hes not here collect- 
ing eggs. He's a palace at home, and powdered 
flunkeys ; and if he don't stay there, you bet he 
knows the reason why ! Follow ? " 

"Oh, yes, I 'ear you," said Huish. 

"He's been doing good business here, then," 
continued the captain. "For years he's been 
doing a great business. It's pearl and shell, of 
course; there couldn't be nothing else in such a 
place ; and no doubt the shell goes off regularly 
by this Trinity Hall, and the money for it straight 
into the bank, so that's no use to us. But what 
else is there? Is there nothing else he would be 
likely to keep here? Is there nothing else he would 
be bound to keep here? Yes, sir; the pearls! 
First, because they're too valuable to trust out 
of his hands. Second, because pearls want a lot 
of handling and matching; and the man who sells 
his pearls as they come in, one here, one there, 
instead of hanging back and holding up well, 
that man's a fool, and it's not Attwater." 

"It's likely," said Huish, "that's w'at it is; 
not proved, but likely." 

"It's proved," said Davis, bluntly. 

"Suppose it was?" said Herrick. "Suppose 
that was all so, and he had these pearls, years' 
and years' collection of them? Suppose he had? 
There's my question." 

The captain drummed with his thick hands on 
124 



THE PEARL-FISHER 

the board in front of him; he looked steadily in 
Herrick's face, and Herrick as steadily looked 
upon the table and the pattering fingers. There 
was a gentle oscillation of the anchored ship, and 
a big patch of sunlight travelled to and fro be- 
tween one and the other. 

"Hear me!" Herrick burst out suddenly. 

"No, you better hear me first," said Davis. 
"Hear me and understand me. We've got no 
use for that fellow, whatever you may have. 
He's your kind, he's not ours; he's took to you, 
and he's wiped his boots on me and Huish. Save 
him if you can!" 

"Save him?" repeated Herrick. 

"Save him if you're able!" reiterated Davis, 
with a blow of his clinched fist. "Go ashore, 
and talk him smooth; and if you get him and his 
pearls aboard, I'll spare him. If you don't, 
there's going to be a funeral. Is that so, HuishP 
Does that suit you?" 

"I ain't a forgiving man," said Huish, "but 
I'm not the sort to spoil business neither. Bring 
the bloke on board, and his pearls along with 
him, and you can have it your own way; maroon 
him where you like I'm agreeable." 

"Well, and if I can't? " cried Herrick, while the 
sweat streamed upon his face. "You talk to me 
as if I was God Almighty, to do this and that! 
But if I can't?" 

"My son," said the captain, "you better do 
your level best, or you'll see sights!" 

125 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Oh, yes," said Huish. "Oh, crikey, yes!" 
He looked across at Herrick with a toothless 
smile that was shocking in its savagery; and, his 
ear caught apparently by the trivial expression 
he had used, he broke into a piece of the chorus 
of a comic song which he must have heard twenty 
years before in London, meaningless gibberish 
that, in that hour and place, seemed hateful as 
a blasphemy: "Hikey, pikey, crikey, fikey, chil- 
lingawallaba dory." 

The captain suffered him to finish; his face 
was unchanged. 

"The way things are, there's many a man that 
wouldn't let you go ashore," he resumed. "But 
I'm not that kind. I know you'd never go back 
on me, Herrick ! Or if you choose to, go and do 
it, and be damned!" he cried, and rose abruptly 
from the table. 

He walked out of the house, and, as he reached 
the door, turned and called Huish, suddenly and 
violently, like the barking of a dog. Huish fol- 
lowed, and Herrick remained alone in the cabin. 

"Now, see here!" whispered Davis; "I know 
that man. If you open your mouth to him 
again, you'll ruin all." 



126 



CHAPTER VIII 

BETTER ACQUAINTANCE 

THE boat was gone again, and already half- 
way to the Farallone, before Herrick turned 
and went unwillingly up the pier. From the 
crown of the beach, the figure-head confronted 
him with what seemed irony, her helmeted head 
tossed back, her formidable arm apparently hurl- 
ing something, whether shell or missile, in the 
direction of the anchored schooner. She seemed 
a defiant deity from the island, coming forth to 
its threshold with a rush as of one about to fly, 
and perpetuated in that dashing attitude. Her- 
rick looked up at her, where she towered above 
him head and shoulders, with singular feelings 
of curiosity and romance, and suffered his mind 
to travel to and fro in her life-history. So long 
she had been the blind conductress of a ship 
among the waves ; so long she had stood here idle 
in the violent sun that yet did not avail to blister 
her; and was even this the end of so many ad- 
ventures, he wondered, or was more behind? 
And he could have found it in his heart to regret 
that she was not a goddess, nor yet he a pagan, 

127 



THE EBB-TIDE 

that he might have bowed down before her in 
that hour of difficulty. 

When he now went forward, it was cool with 
the shadow of many well-grown palms; draughts 
of the dying breeze swung them together over- 
head; and on all sides, with a swiftness beyond 
dragon-flies or swallows, the spots of sunshine 
flitted and hovered and returned. Underfoot, 
the sand was fairly solid and quite level, and 
Herrick's steps fell there noiseless as in new- 
fallen snow. It bore the marks of having been 
once weeded like a garden alley at home; but 
the pestilence had done its work, and the weeds 
were returning. The buildings of the settlement 
showed here and there through the stems of the 
colonnade, fresh-painted, trim and dandy, and 
all silent as the grave. Only here and there in 
the crypt, there was a rustle and scurry and some 
crowing of poultry; and from behind the house 
with the verandahs he saw smoke arise and heard 
the crackling of a fire. 

The store-houses were nearest him upon his 
right. The first was locked; in the second he 
could dimly perceive, through a window, a cer- 
tain accumulation of pearl-shell piled in the far 
end; the third, which stood gaping open on the 
afternoon, seized on the mind of Herrick with 
its multiplicity and disorder of romantic things. 
Therein were cables, windlasses and blocks of 
every size and capacity; cabin- windows and lad- 
ders; rusty tanks; a companion hatch; a binnacle 

128 



BETTER ACQUAINTANCE 

with its brass mountings, and its compass idly 
pointing, in the confusion and dusk of that shed, 
to a forgotten pole; ropes, anchors, harpoons; 
a blubber-dipper of copper, green with years; 
a steering-wheel; a tool-chest with the vessel's 
name upon the top, the Asia, a whole curios- 
ity-shop of sea-curios, gross and solid, heavy to 
lift, ill to break, bound with brass and shod with 
iron. Two wrecks at least must have contributed 
to this random heap of lumber; and as Herrick 
looked upon it, it seemed to him as if the two 
ship's companies were there on guard, and he 
heard the tread of feet and whisperings, and saw 
with the tail of his eye the commonplace ghosts 
of sailor men. 

This was not merely the work of an aroused 
imagination, but had something sensible to go 
upon. Sounds of a stealthy approach were no 
doubt audible; and while he still stood staring 
at the lumber, the voice of his host sounded sud- 
denly, and with even more than the customary 
softness of enunciation, from behind. 

"Junk," it said, "only old junk! And does 
Mr. Hay find a parable? " 

"I find at least a strong impression," replied 
Herrick, turning quickly, lest he might be able 
to catch, on the face of the speaker, some com- 
mentary on the words. 

Attwater stood in the doorway, which he al- 
most wholly filled, his hands stretched above his 
head and grasping the architrave. He smiled 

129 



THE EBB-TIDE 

when their eyes met, but the expression was in- 
scrutable. 

"Yes, a powerful impression. You are like 
me nothing so affecting as ships!" said he. 
"The ruins of an empire would leave me frigid, 
when a bit of an old rail that an old shellback 
leaned on in the middle watch would bring me up 
all standing. But come, let's see some more of 
the island. It's all sand and coral and palm-trees ; 
but there's a kind of quaintness in the place." 

"I find it heavenly," said Herrick, breathing 
deep, with head bared in the shadow. 

"Ah, that's because you're new from sea," said 
Attwater. "I daresay, too, you can appreciate 
what one calls it. It's a lovely name. It has 
a flavour, it has a colour, it has a ring and fall 
to it; it's like its author it's half Christian! 
Remember your first view of the island, and how 
it's only woods and water; and suppose you had 
asked somebody for the name, and he had an- 
swered, nemorosa Zacynthos" 

"Jam medio apparet fluctu!" exclaimed Her- 
rick. "Ye gods ! yes, how good I " 

"If it gets upon the chart, the skippers will 
make nice work of it," said Attwater. "But 
here, come and see the diving-shed." 

He opened a door, and Herrick saw a large dis- 
play of apparatus neatly ordered, pumps and 
pipes, and the leaded boots, and the huge snouted 
helmets shining in rows along the wall ; ten com- 
plete outfits. 

130 



BETTER ACQUAINTANCE 

"The whole eastern half of my lagoon is shal- 
low, you must understand," said Attwater; "so 
we were able to get in the dress to great advan- 
tage. It paid beyond belief, and was a queer 
sight when they were at it; and these marine 
monsters" tapping the nearest of the helmets 
"kept appearing and reappearing in the midst 
of the lagoon. Fond of parables?" he asked 
abruptly. 

"Oh, yes!" said Herrick. 
"Well, I saw these machines come up dripping 
and go down again, and come up dripping and 
go down again, and all the while the fellow inside 
as dry as toast," said Attwater; "and I thought 
we all wanted a dress to go down into the world 
in, and come up scatheless. What do you think 
the name was?" he inquired. 
"Self-conceit," said Herrick. 
"Ah, but I mean seriously," said Attwater. 
"Call it self-respect, then," corrected Herrick, 
with a laugh. 

"And why not Grace? Why not God's Grace, 
Hay?" asked Attwater. "Why not the grace 
of your Maker and Redeemer, He who died for 
you, He who upholds you, He whom you daily 
crucify afresh? There is nothing here" strik- 
ing on his bosom " nothing there " smiting the 
wall "and nothing there" stamping "noth- 
ing but God's Grace ! We walk upon it, we breathe 
it; we live and die by it; it makes the nails and 
axles of the universe; and a puppy in pyjamas 

131 



THE EBB-TIDE 

prefers self-conceit I " The huge dark man stood 
over against Herrick by the line of divers' hel- 
mets, and seemed to swell and glow ; and the next 
moment the life had gone from him. "I beg 
your pardon," said he; "I see you don't believe 
in God." 

"Not in your sense, I am afraid," said Herrick. 

" I never argue with young atheists or habitual 
drunkards," said Attwater, flippantly. "Let us 
go across the island to the outer beach." 

It was but a little way, the greatest width of 
that island scarce exceeding a furlong, and they 
walked gently. Herrick was like one in a dream. 
He had come there with a mind divided; come 
prepared to study that ambiguous and sneering 
mask, drag out the essential man from under- 
neath, and act accordingly; decision being till 
then postponed. Iron cruelty, an iron insen- 
sibility to the suffering of others, the uncom- 
promising pursuit of his own interests, cold cul- 
ture, manners without humanity: these he had 
looked for, these he still thought he saw. But 
to find the whole machine thus glow with the 
reverberation of religious zeal, surprised him be- 
yond words; and he laboured in vain, as he 
walked, to piece together into any kind of whole 
his odds and ends of knowledge ; to adjust again, 
into any kind of focus with itself, his picture of 
the man beside him. 

"What brought you here to the South Seas?" 
he asked presently. 

132 



BETTER ACQUAINTANCE 

' ' Many things, ' ' said Attwater. ' ' Youth, curi- 
osity, romance, the love of the sea, and (it will 
surprise you to hear) an interest in missions. 
That has a good deal declined, which will sur- 
prise you less. They go the wrong way to work ; 
they are too parsonish, too much of the old wife, 
and even the old apple-wife. Clothes, clothes, are 
their idea; but clothes are not Christianity, any 
more than they are the sun in heaven, or could 
take the place of it! They think a parsonage 
with roses, and church-bells, and nice old women 
bobbing in the lanes, are part and parcel of re- 
ligion. But religion is a savage thing, like the 
universe it illuminates; savage, cold, and bare, 
but infinitely strong." 

"And you found this island by an accident?" 
said Herrick. 

"As you did," said Attwater. "And since 
then I have had a business and a colony and a 
mission of my own. I was a man of the world 
before I was a Christian; I'm a man of the world 
still, and I made my mission pay. No good ever 
came of coddling. A man has to stand up in 
God's sight and work up to his weight avoirdu- 
pois; then I'll talk to him, but not before. I 
gave these beggars what they wanted, a judge 
in Israel, the bearer of the sword and scourge. 
I was making a new people here, and behold, 
the angel of the Lord smote them, and they were 
not!" 

With the very uttering of the words, which 
133 



THE EBB-TIDE 

were accompanied by a gesture, they came forth 
out of the porch of the palm wood by the margin 
of the sea, and full in front of the sun, which 
was near setting. Before them the surf broke 
slowly. All around, with an air of imperfect 
wooden things inspired with wicked activity, 
the land-crabs trundled and scuttled into holes. 
On the right, whither Attwater pointed and 
abruptly turned, was the cemetery of the island, 
a field of broken stones from the bigness of a 
child's hand to that of his head, diversified by 
many mounds of the same material, and walled 
by a rude rectangular enclosure of the same. 
Nothing grew there but a shrub or two with 
some white flowers; nothing but the number of 
the mounds, and their disquieting shape, indi- 
cated the presence of the dead. 

" 'The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep!' " 

quoted Attwater, as he entered by the open gate- 
way into that unhomely close. " Coral to coral, 
pebbles to pebbles," he said; "this has been the 
main scene of my activity in the South Pacific. 
Some were good, and some bad, and the majority 
(of course and always) null. Here was a fellow, 
now, that used to frisk like a dog; if you had 
called him, he came like an arrow from a bow; if 
you had not, and he came unbidden, you should 
have seen the deprecating eye and the little in- 
tricate dancing step. Well, his trouble is over 
now ; he has lain down with kings and councillors ; 

134 



BETTER ACQUAINTANCE 

the rest of his acts, are they not written in the 
Book of the Chronicles? That fellow was from 
Penrhyn; like all the Penrhyn islanders he was 
ill to manage ; heady, jealous, violent, the man 
with the nose ! He lies here quiet enough. And 
so they all lie. 

" 'And darkness was the burier of the dead.' " 

He stood, in the strong glow of the sunset, with 
bowed head; his voice sounded now sweet and 
now bitter, with the varying sense. 

"You loved these people?" cried Herrick, 
strangely touched. 

"I?" said Attwater. "Dear, no! Don't 
think me a philanthropist. I dislike men, and 
I hate women. If I like the islands at all, it is 
because you see them here plucked of their lend- 
ings, their dead birds and cocked hats, their 
petticoats and coloured hose. Here was one I 
liked, though," and he set his foot upon a mound. 
"He was a fine, savage fellow; he had a dark 
soul. Yes, I liked this one. I am fanciful," he 
added, looking hard at Herrick, " and I take fads. 
I like you." 

Herrick turned swiftly, and looked far away 
to where the clouds were beginning to troop to- 
gether and amass themselves round the obsequies 
of day. "No one can like me," he said. 

"You are wrong there," said the other, "as a 
man usually is about himself. You are attrac- 
tive, very attractive." 

135 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"It is not me," said Herrick; "no one can like 
me. If you knew how I despised myself and 
why!" His voice rang out in the quiet grave- 
yard. 

" I knew that you despised yourself," said Att- 
water. "I saw the blood come into your face 
to-day when you remembered Oxford. And I 
could have blushed for you myself, to see a man, 
a gentleman, with those two vulgar wolves." 

Herrick faced him with a thrill. "Wolves?" 
he repeated. 

"I said wolves, and vulgar wolves," said Att- 
water. "Do you know that to-day, when I 
came on board, I trembled?" 

"You concealed it well," stammered Herrick. 

"A habit of mine," said Attwater. "But I 
was afraid, for all that. I was afraid of the two 
wolves." He raised his hand slowly. "And 
now, Hay, you poor, lost puppy, what do you 
do with the two wolves?" 

"What do I do? I don't do anything," said 
Herrick. "There is nothing wrong; all is above 
board; Captain Brown is a good soul; he is a 
. . . he is . . ." The phantom voice of 
Davis called in his ear, "There's going to be a 
funeral" ; and the sweat burst forth and streamed 
on his brow. "He is a family man," he resumed 
again, swallowing; "he has children at home, 
and a wife." 

' ' And a very nice man? ' ' said Attwater. * ' And 
so is Mr. Whish, no doubt?" 

136 



BETTER ACQUAINTANCE 

" I won't go so far as that," said Herrick. " I 
do not like Huish. And yet . . . he has his 
merits, too." 

"And, in short, take them for all in all, as 
good a ship's company as one would ask?" said 
Attwater. 

"Oh, yes," said Herrick, "quite." 

"So then, we approach the other point of why 
you despise yourself? " said Attwater. 

"Do we not all despise ourselves?" cried Her- 
rick. "Do not you?" 

"Oh, I say I do. But do I?" said Attwater. 
"One thing I know at least: I never gave a cry 
like yours. Hay, it came from a bad conscience! 
Ah, man, that poor diving-dress of self-conceit 
is sadly tattered! To-day, if ye will hear my 
voice. To-day, now, while the sun sets, and here 
in this burying-place of brown innocents, fall on 
your knees and cast your sins and sorrows on 
the Redeemer. Hay " 

"Not Hay!" interrupted the other, strangling. 
"Don't call me that! I mean . . . For God's 
sake, can't you see I'm on the rack?" 

"I see it, I know it, I put and keep you there; 
my fingers are on the screws," said Attwater. 
"Please God, I will bring a penitent this night 
before His throne. Come, come to the mercy- 
seat! He waits to be gracious, man, waits to 
be gracious!" 

He spread out his arms like a crucifix; his face 
shone with the brightness of a seraph's; in his 

137 



THE EBB-TIDE 

voice, as it rose to the last word, the tears 
seemed ready. 

Herrick made a vigorous call upon himself. 
" Attwater," he said, "you push me beyond bear- 
ing. What am I to do? I do not believe. It is 
living truth to you ; to me, upon my conscience, 
only folk-lore. I do not believe there is any form 
of words under heaven by which I can lift the 
burthen from my shoulders. I must stagger on 
to the end with the pack of my responsibility ; 
I cannot shift it. Do you suppose I would not, 
if I thought I could? I cannot cannot can- 
not and let that suffice!" 

The rapture was all gone from Attwater's 
countenance; the dark apostle had disappeared, 
and in his place there stood an easy, sneering 
gentleman, who took off his hat and bowed. It 
was pertly done, and the blood burned in Her- 
rick's face. 

"What do you mean by that?" he cried. 

"Well, shall we go bacl^ to the house?" said 
Attwater. "Our guests will soon be due." 

Herrick stood his ground a moment, with 
clenched fists and teeth; and as he so stood, the 
fact of his errand there slowly swung clear in 
front of him, like the moon out of clouds. He 
had come to lure that man on board ; he was fail- 
ing, even if it could be said that he had tried; 
he was sure to fail now, and knew it, and knew 
it was better so. And what was to be next? 

With a groan he turned to follow his host, who 
138 



BETTER ACQUAINTANCE 

was standing with a polite smile, and instantly, 
and somewhat obsequiously, led the way into 
the now darkened colonnade of palms. There 
they went in silence; the earth gave up richly of 
her perfume, the air tasted warm and aromatic 
in the nostrils, and, from a great way forward in 
the wood, the brightness of lights and fire marked 
out the house of Attwater. 

Herrick meanwhile resolved and resisted an 
immense temptation to go up, to touch him on 
the arm, and breathe a word in his ear: "Beware, 
they are going to murder you." There would 
be one life saved; but what of the two others? 
The three lives went up and down before him 
like buckets in a well, or like the scales of bal- 
ances. It had come to a choice, and one that 
must be speedy. For certain invaluable min- 
utes the wheels of life ran before him, and he 
could still divert them with a touch to the one 
side or the other; still choose who was to live and 
who was to die. He considered the men. Att- 
water intrigued, puzzled, dazzled, enchanted, 
revolted him. Alive, he seemed but a doubtful 
good : and the thought of him lying dead was so 
unwelcome that it pursued him, like a vision, 
with every circumstance of colour and sound. 
Incessantly he had before him the image of that 
great mass of man, stricken down, in varying 
attitudes and with varying wounds; fallen 
prone, fallen supine, fallen on his side, or clinging 
to a doorpost, with the changing face and the 

139 



THE EBB-TIDE 

relaxing fingers of the death agony. He heard 
the click of the trigger, the thud of the ball, 
the cry of the victim; he saw the blood flow. 
And this building-up of circumstance was like 
a consecration of the man, till he seemed to walk 
in sacrificial fillets. Next he considered Davis, 
with his thick-fingered, coarse-grained, oat-bread 
commonness of nature; his indomitable valour 
and mirth in the old days of their starvation; 
the endearing blend of his faults and virtues; 
the sudden shining forth of a tenderness that lay 
too deep for tears; his children, Ada and her 
bowel-complaint, and Ada's doll. No, death 
could not be suffered to approach that head, 
even in fancy. With a general heat and a brac- 
ing of his muscles, it was borne in on Herrick 
that Ada's father would find in him a son to the 
death. And even Huish shared a little in that 
sacredness; by the tacit adoption of daily life 
they were become brothers ; there was an implied 
bond of loyalty in their cohabitation of the ship 
and of their past miseries, to which Herrick must 
be a little true or wholly dishonoured. Horror 
of sudden death for horror of sudden death, there 
was here no hesitation possible; it must be Att- 
water. And no sooner was the thought formed 
(which was a sentence) than the whole mind of 
the man ran in a panic to the other side; and 
when he looked within himself, he was aware 
only of turbulence and inarticulate outcry. 
In all this there was no thought of Robert 
140 



BETTER ACQUAINTANCE 

Herrick. He had complied with the ebb-tide in 
man's affairs, and the tide had carried him away ; 
he heard already the roaring of the maelstrom 
that must hurry him under. And in his be- 
devilled and dishonoured soul there was no 
thought of self. 

For how long he walked silent by his compan- 
ion, Herrick had no guess. The clouds rolled 
suddenly away; the orgasm was over; he found 
himself placid with the placidity of despair; 
there returned to him the power of commonplace 
speech: and he heard with surprise his own voice 
say: "What a lovely evening I" 

"Is it not?" said Attwater. "Yes, the even- 
ings here would be very pleasant if one had any- 
thing to do. By day, of course, one can shoot." 

"You shoot?" asked Herrick. 

"Yes, I am what you would call a fine shot," 
said Attwater. "It is faith; I believe my balls 
will go true ; if I were to miss once, it would spoil 
me for nine months." 

"You never miss, then?" said Herrick. 

" Not unless I mean to, ' ' said Attwater. " But 
to miss nicely is the art. There was an old king 
one knew in the western islands, who used to 
empty a Winchester all round a man, and stir 
his hair or nick a rag out of his clothes with every 
ball except the last; and that went plump be- 
tween the eyes. It was pretty practice." 

"You could do that?" asked Herrick, with a 
sudden chill. 

141 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Oh, I can do anything," returned the other. 
"You do not understand; what must be, must." 

They were now come near to the back part of 
the house. One of the men was engaged about 
the cooking-fire, which burned with the clear, 
fierce, essential radiance of cocoa-nut shells. A 
fragrance of strange meats was in the air. All 
round in the verandahs lamps were lighted, so 
that the place shone abroad in the dusk of the 
trees with many complicated patterns of shadow. 

"Come and wash your hands," said Attwater, 
and led the way into a clean, matted room with 
a cot-bed, a safe, a shelf or two of books in a 
glazed case, and an iron washing-stand. Pres- 
ently he cried in the native tongue, and there 
appeared for a moment in the doorway a plump 
and pretty young woman with a clean towel. 

"Hullo!" cried Herrick, who now saw for the 
first time the fourth survivor of the pestilence, 
and was startled by the recollection of the cap- 
tain's orders. 

" Yes," said Attwater, "the whole colony lives 
about the house, what's left of it. We are all 
afraid of devils, if you please, and Taniera and 
she sleep in the front parlour, and the other boy 
on the verandah." 

"She is pretty," said Herrick. 

"Too pretty," said Attwater. "That was 
why I had her married. A man never knows 
when he may be inclined to be a fool about 
women: so when we were left alone, I had the 

142 



BETTER ACQUAINTANCE 

pair of them to the chapel and performed the 
ceremony. She made a lot of fuss. I do not 
take at all the romantic view of marriage," he 
explained. 

"And that strikes you as a safeguard?" asked 
Herrick, with amazement. 

"Certainly. I am a plain man, and very 
literal. Whom God hath joined together, are the 
words, I fancy. So one married them, and re- 
spects the marriage," said Attwater. 

"Ah! "said Herrick. 

"You see, I may look to make an excellent 
marriage when I go home," began Attwater, con- 
fidentially. ' ' I am rich. This safe alone ' ' lay- 
ing his hand upon it "will be a moderate for- 
tune when I have the time to place the pearls 
upon the market. Here are ten years' accumu- 
lation from a lagoon where I have had as many 
as ten divers going all day long; and I went 
further than people usually do in these waters, 
for I rotted a lot of shell, and did splendidly. 
Would you like to see them?" 

This confirmation of the captain's guess hit 
Herrick hard, and he contained himself with 
difficulty. "No, thank you, I think not," said 
he. "I do not care for pearls, I am very indif- 
ferent to all these . . ." 

"Gewgaws?" suggested Attwater. "And yet 
I believe you ought to cast an eye on my collec- 
tion, which is really unique, and which Oh! it 
is the case with all of us and everything about 

143 



THE EBB-TIDE 

us ! hangs by a hair. To-day it groweth up and 
flourisheth; to-morrow it is cut down and cast 
into the oven. To-day it is here and together in 
this safe; to-morrow, to-night, it may be scat- 
tered. Thou fool! this night thy soul shall be 
required of thee." 

"I do not understand you," said Herrick. 

"Not?" said Attwater. 

"You seem to speak in riddles," said Herrick, 
unsteadily. "I do not understand what manner 
of man you are, nor what you are driving at." 

Attwater stood with his hands upon his hips, 
and his head bent forward. "I am a fatalist," 
he replied, "and just now (if you insist on it) an 
experimentalist. Talking of which, by the by, 
who painted out the schooner's name?" he said, 
with mocking softness. " Because, do you know? 
one thinks it should be done again. It can still 
be partly read; and whatever is worth doing, is 
surely worth doing well. You think with me? 
That is so nice. Well, shall we step on the ve- 
randah? I have a dry sherry that I would like 
your opinion of." 

Herrick followed him forth to where, under the 
light of the hanging lamps, the table shone with 
napery and crystal; followed him as the criminal 
goes with the hangman, or the sheep with the 
butcher; took the sherry mechanically, drank it, 
and spoke mechanical words of praise. The ob- 
ject of his terror had become suddenly inverted; 
till then he had seen Attwater trussed and gag- 

144 



BETTER ACQUAINTANCE 

ged, a helpless victim, and had longed to run in 
and save him; he saw him now tower up mys- 
terious and menacing, the angel of the Lord's 
wrath, armed with knowledge, and threatening 
judgment. He set down his glass again, and was 
surprised to see it empty. 

"You go always armed? " he said, and the next 
moment could have plucked his tongue out. 

"Always," said Attwater. "I have been 
through a mutiny here; that was one of my inci- 
dents of missionary life." 

And just then the sound of voices reached 
them, and looking forth from the verandah, they 
saw Huish and the captain drawing near. 



145 



CHAPTER IX 

THE DINNER PARTY 

THEY sat down to an island dinner, remark- 
able for its variety and excellence ; turtle soup 
and steak, fish, fowls, a sucking-pig, a cocoa-nut 
salad, and sprouting cocoa-nut roasted for dessert. 
Not a tin had been opened ; and save for the oil 
and vinegar in the salad, and some green spears 
of onion which Attwater cultivated and plucked 
with his own hand, not even the condiments were 
European. Sherry, hock, and claret succeeded 
each other, and the Farallone champagne brought 
up the rear with the dessert. 

It was plain that, like so many of the extremely 
religious in the days before teetotalism, Attwater 
had a dash of the epicure. For such characters 
it is softening to eat well; doubly so to have de- 
signed and had prepared an excellent meal for 
others ; and the manners of their host were agree- 
ably mollified in consequence. A cat of huge 
growth sat on his shoulder purring, and occa- 
sionally, with a deft paw, captured a morsel in 
the air. To a cat he might be likened himself, 
as he lolled at the head of his table, dealing out 

146 



THE DINNER PARTY 

attentions and innuendoes, and using the velvet 
and the claw indifferently. And both Huish and 
the captain fell progressively under the charm of 
his hospitable freedom. 

Over the third guest, the incidents of the dinner 
may be said to have passed for long unheeded. 
Herrick accepted all that was offered him, ate 
and drank without tasting, and heard without 
comprehension. His mind was singly occupied 
in contemplating the horror of the circumstance 
in which he sat. What Attwater knew, what the 
captain designed, from which side treachery was 
to be first expected, these were the ground of his 
thoughts. There were times when he longed to 
throw down the table and flee into the night. 
And even that was debarred him. To do any- 
thing, to say anything, to move at all, were only 
to precipitate the barbarous tragedy; and he sat 
spellbound, eating with white lips. Two of his 
companions observed him narrowly; Attwater 
with raking, side-long glances that did not inter- 
rupt his talk, the captain with a heavy and anx- 
ious consideration. 

"Well, I must say this sherry is a really prime 
article," said Huish. "'Ow much does it stand 
you in, if it's a fair question?" 

"A hundred and twelve shillings in London, 
and the freight to Valparaiso and on again," said 
Attwater. "It strikes one as really not a bad 
fluid." 

"A 'undred and twelve!" murmured the clerk, 
147 



THE EBB-TIDE 

relishing the wine and the figures in a common 
ecstasy. "Oh my I" 

"So glad you like it," said Attwater. "Help 
yourself, Mr. Whish, and keep the bottle by you." 

"My friend's name is Huish, and not Whish, 
sir," said the captain, with a flush. 

"I beg your pardon, I am sure. Huish and 
not Whish certainly," said Attwater. "I was 
about to say that I have still eight dozen," he 
added, fixing the captain with his eye. 

"Eight dozen what?" said Davis. 

"Sherry," was the reply. "Eight dozen ex- 
cellent sherry. Why, it seems almost worth it 
in itself, to a man fond of wine." 

The ambiguous words struck home to guilty 
consciences, and Huish and the captain sat up 
in their places and regarded him with a scare. 

"Worth what?" said Davis. 

"A hundred and twelve shillings," replied Att- 
water. 

The captain breathed hard for a moment. He 
reached out far and wide to find any coherency 
in these remarks; then, with a great effort, 
changed the subject. 

" I allow we are about the first white men upon 
this island, sir," said he. 

Attwater followed him at once, and with entire 
gravity, to the new ground. "Myself and Dr. 
Symonds excepted, I should say the only ones," 
he returned. "And yet who can tellP In the 
course of the ages some one may have lived here, 

148 



THE DINNER PARTY 

and we sometimes think that some one must. 
The cocoa-palms grow all round the island, which 
is scarce like Nature's planting. We found, be- 
sides, when we landed, an unmistakable cairn 
upon the beach; use unknown, but probably 
erected in the hope of gratifying some mumbo- 
jumbo whose very name is forgotten, by some 
thick-witted gentry whose very bones are lost. 
Then the island (witness the 'Directory') has 
been twice reported; and since my tenancy we 
have had two wrecks, both derelict. The rest is 
conjecture." 

"Dr. Symonds is your partner, I guess?" said 
Davis. 

"A dear fellow, Symonds! How he would re- 
gret it, if he knew you had been here," said Att- 
water. 

"'E's on the Trinity "All, ain't he?" asked 
Huish. 

"And if you could tell me where the Trinity 
'All was, you would confer a favour, Mr. Whish! " 
was the reply. 

" I suppose she has a native crew? " said Davis. 

"Since the secret has been kept ten years, one 
would suppose she had," replied Attwater. 

"Well, now, see 'ere!" said Huish. "You 
have everything about you in no end style, and 
no mistake, but I tell you it wouldn't do for me. 
Too much of ' the old rustic bridge by the mill' ; 
too retired by 'alf. Give me the sound of Bow 
Bells!" 

149 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"You must not think it was always so," re- 
plied Attwater. " This was once a busy shore, 
although now, hark! you can hear the solitude. 
I find it stimulating. And talking of the sound 
of belte, kindly follow a little experiment of mine 
in silence." There was a silver bell at his right 
hand to call the servants; he made them a sign 
to stand still, struck the bell with force, and 
leaned eagerly forward. The note rose clear and 
strong; it rang out clear and far into the night 
and over the deserted island ; it died into the dis- 
tance until there only lingered in the porches 
of the ear a vibration that was sound no longer. 
"Empty houses, empty sea, solitary beaches!" 
said Attwater. "And yet God hears the bell! 
And yet we sit in this verandah, on a lighted 
stage, with all heaven for spectators! And you 
call that solitude? " 

There followed a bar of silence, during which 
the captain sat mesmerised. 

Then Attwater laughed softly. "These are 
the diversions of a lonely man," he resumed, 
" and possibly not in good taste. One tells one's 
self these little fairy tales for company. If there 
should happen to be anything in folk-lore, Mr. 
Hay? But here comes the claret. One does not 
offer you Laffitte, captain, because I believe it is 
all sold to the railroad dining-cars in your great 
country: but this Brane-Mouton is of a good 
year, and Mr. Whish will give me news of it." 

"That's a queer idea of yours! " cried the cap- 
150 



THE DINNER PARTY 

tain, bursting with a sigh from the spell that had 
bound him. " So you mean to tell me, now, that 
you sit here evenings and ring up ... well, 
ring on the angels . .. . by yourself?" 

"As a matter of historic fact, and since you 
put it directly, one does not," said Attwater. 
"Why ring a bell, when there flows out from one's 
self and everything about one a far more mo- 
mentous silence? The least beat of my heart, 
and the least thought in my mind, echoing into 
eternity for ever and for ever and for ever." 

"Oh, look 'ere," said Huish, "turn down the 
lights at once, and the Band of 'Ope will oblige! 
This ain't a spiritual seance." 

"No folk-lore about Mr. Whish I beg your 
pardon, captain; Huish, not Whish, of course," 
said Attwater. 

As the boy was filling Huish's glass, the bottle 
escaped from his hand and was shattered, and the 
wine spilt on the verandah floor. Instant grim- 
ness as of death appeared in the face of Attwater; 
he smote the bell imperiously, and the two brown 
natives fell into the attitude of attention, and 
stood mute and trembling. There was a" moment 
of silence and hard looks; then followed a few 
savage words in the native; and, upon a gesture 
of dismissal, the service proceeded as before. 

None of the party had as yet observed upon 
the excellent bearing of the two men. They were 
dark, undersized, and well set up ; stepped softly, 
waited deftly, brought on the wines and dishes 

151 



THE EBB-TIDE 

at a look, and their eyes attended studiously 
on their master. 

"Where do you get your labour from, any- 
way?" asked Davis. 

"Ah, where not?" answered Att water. 

"Not much of a soft job, I suppose?" said the 
captain. 

"If you will tell me where getting labour is," 
said Attwater, with a shrug. "And, of course, 
in our case, as we could name no destination, we 
had to go far and wide, and do the best we could. 
We have gone as far west as the Kingsmills, and 
as far south as Rapa-iti. Pity Symonds isn't 
here! He is full of yarns. That was his part, 
to collect them. Then began mine, which was 
the educational." 

"You mean to run them?" said Davis. 

"Ay, to run them," said Attwater. 

"Wait a bit," said Davis, "I'm out of my 
depth. How was this? Do you mean to say 
you did it single-handed?" 

" One did it single-handed," said Attwater, " be- 
cause there was nobody to holp one." 

"By God, but you must be a holy terror!" 
cried the captain, in a glow of admiration. 

"One does one's best," said Attwater. 

"Well, now!" said Davis, "I have seen a lot 
of driving in my time, and been counted a good 
driver myself; I fought my way, third mate, 
round the Cape Horn with a push of packet-rats 
that would have turned the devil out of hell and 

152 



THE DINNER PARTY 

shut the door on him; and, I tell you, this racket 
of Mr. Attwater's takes the cake. In a ship, 
why there ain't nothing to it! You've got the 
law with you, that's what does it. But put me 
down on this blame' beach, alone, with nothing 
but a whip and a mouthful of bad words, and 
ask me to . . . no, sir! it's not good enough! 
I haven't got the sand for that!" cried Davis. 
"It's the law behind," he added; "it's the law 
does it, every time!" 

"The beak ain't as black as he's sometimes 
pynted," observed Huish, humorously. 

"Well, one got the law after a fashion," said 
Attwater. " One had to be a number of things. 
It was sometimes rather a bore." 

"I should smile!" said Davis. "Rather live- 
ly, I should think." 

" I daresay we mean the same thing," said Att- 
water. "However, one way or another, one got 
it knocked into their heads that they must work, 
and they did ... until the Lord took them." 

' 'Ope you made 'em jump," said Huish. 

".When it was necessary, Mr. Whish, I made 
them jump," said Attwater. 

"You bet you did!" cried the captain. He 
was a good deal flushed, but not so much with 
wine as admiration; and his eyes drank in the 
huge proportions of the other with delight. "You 
bet you did, and you bet that I can see you 
doing it. By God, you're a man; and you can 
say I said so!" 

153 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Too good of you, I'm sure," said Attwater. 

"Did you did you ever have crime here?" 
asked Herrick, breaking his silence with a plan- 
gent voice. 

"Yes," said Attwater, "we did." 

"And how did you handle that, sir?" cried the 
eager captain. 

"Well, you see, it was a queer case," replied 
Attwater. "It was a case that would have puz- 
zled Solomon. Shall I tell it you? Yes?" 

The captain rapturously accepted. 

"Well," drawled Attwater, "here is what it 
was. I daresay you know two types of natives, 
which may be called the obsequious and the 
sullen? Well, one had them, the types them- 
selves, detected in the fact ; and one had them 
together. Obsequiousness ran out of the first, 
like wine out of a bottle ; sullenness congested in 
the second. Obsequiousness was all smiles; he 
ran to catch your eye; he loved to gabble; and 
he had about a dozen words of beach English, 
and an eighth of an inch veneer of Christianity. 
Sullens was industrious ; a big, down-looking bee. 
When he was spoken to, he answered with a black 
look and a shrug of one shoulder, but the thing 
would be done. I don't give him to you for a 
model of manners; there was nothing showy 
about Sullens, but he was strong and steady, and 
ungraciously obedient. Now, Sullens got into 
trouble; no matter how; the regulations of the 
place were broken, and he was punished accord- 

154 



THE DINNER PARTY 

ingly without effect. So the next day, and the 
next, and the day after, till I began to be weary 
of the business, and Sullens (I am afraid) par- 
ticularly so. There came a day when he was in 
fault again, for perhaps the thirtieth time; and 
he rolled a dull eye upon me, with a spark in it 
and appeared to be about to speak. Now, the 
regulations of the place are formal upon one 
point: we allow no explanations. None are re- 
ceived, none allowed to be offered. So one 
stopped him instantly, but made a note of the 
circumstance. The next day he was gone from 
the settlement. There could be nothing more 
annoying; if the labour took to running away 
the fishery was wrecked. There are sixty miles 
of this island, you see, all in length, like the 
Queen's highway; the idea of pursuit in such a 
place was a piece of single-minded childishness, 
which one did not entertain. Two days later I 
made a discovery. It came in upon me with a 
flash that Sullens had been unjustly punished 
from beginning to end, and the real culprit 
throughout had been Obsequiousness. The na- 
tive who talks, like the woman who hesitates, is 
lost. You set him talking and lying, and he 
talks and lies, and watches your face to see if 
he has pleased you, till at last out comes the 
truth! It came out of Obsequiousness in the 
regular course. I said nothing to him; I dis- 
missed him ; and, late as it was, for it was already 
night, set off to look for Sullens. I had not far 

155 



THE EBB-TIDE 

to go; about two hundred yards up the island 
the moon showed him to me. He was hanging 
in a cocoa-palm I'm not botanist enough to tell 
you how but it's the way, in nine cases out of 
ten, these natives commit suicide. His tongue 
was out, poor devil, and the birds had got at 
him. I spare you details; he was an ugly sight! 
I gave the business six good hours of thinking in 
this verandah. My justice had been made a fool 
of. I don't suppose that I was ever angrier. 
Next day I had the conch sounded and all hands 
out before sunrise. One took one's gun and led 
the way with Obsequiousness. He was very talk- 
ative; the beggar supposed that all was right, 
now he had confessed. In the old schoolboy 
phrase, he was plainly * sucking up' to me; full of 
protestations of good-will and good behaviour, 
to which one answered one really can't remember 
what. Presently the tree came in sight, and the 
hanged man. They all burst out lamenting for 
their comrade in the island way, and Obsequious- 
ness was the loudest of the mourners. He was 
quite genuine; a noxious creature, without any 
consciousness of guilt. Well, presently to make 
a long story short one told him to go up the 
tree. He stared a bit, looked at one with a 
trouble in his eye, and had rather a sickly smile, 
but went. He was obedient to the last; he had 
all the pretty virtues, but the truth was not in 
him. So soon as he was up, he looked down, and 
there was the rifle covering him; and at that he 

156 



THE DINNER PARTY 

gave a whimper like a dog. You could hear a 
pin drop ; no more keening now. There they all 
crouched upon the ground with bulging eyes; 
there was he in the tree-top, the colour of lead ; 
and between was the dead man, dancing a bit in 
the air. He was obedient to the last, recited his 
crime, recommended his soul to God. And 
then ..." 

Attwater paused, and Herrick, who had been 
listening attentively, made a convulsive move- 
ment which upset his glass. 

"And then?" said the breathless captain. 

' ' Shot , ' ' said Attwater. ' ' They came to ground 
together." 

Herrick sprang to his feet with a shriek and an 
insensate gesture. 

"It was a murder," he screamed. "A cold- 
hearted, bloody-minded murder! You mon- 
strous being! Murderer and hypocrite! Mur- 
derer and hypocrite! Murderer and hypocrite!" 
he repeated, and his tongue stumbled among the 
words. 

The captain was by him in a moment. "Her- 
rick!" he cried, "behave yourself! Here, don't 
be a blame' fool!" 

Herrick struggled in his embrace like a frantic 
child, and suddenly bowing his face in his hands, 
choked into a sob, the first of many, which now 
convulsed his body silently, and now jerked from 
him indescribable and meaningless sounds. 

"Your friend appears over-excited," remarked 
157 



THE EBB-TIDE 

Attwater, sitting unmoved, but all alert, at 
table. 

"It must be the wine," replied the captain. 
"He ain't no drinking man, you see. I I think 
I'll take him away. A walk'll sober him up, I 
guess." 

He led him without resistance out of the veran- 
dah and into the night, in which they soon melt- 
ed; but still for some time, as they drew away, 
his comfortable voice was to be heard soothing 
and remonstrating, and Herrick answering, at 
intervals, with the mechanical noises of hysteria. 

"'E's like a bloomin' poultry-yard," observed 
Huish, helping himself to wine (of which he 
spilled a good deal) with gentlemanly ease. "A 
man should learn to beyave at table," he added. 

"Rather bad form, is it not?" said Attwater. 
"Well, well, we are left tete-a-tete. A glass of 
wine with you, Mr. Whish!" 



158 



CHAPTER X 

THE OPEN DOOR 

THE captain and Herrick meanwhile turned 
their backs upon the lights in Attwater's 
verandah, and took a direction towards the pier 
and the beach of the lagoon. 

The isle, at this hour, with its smooth floor of 
sand, the pillared roof overhead, and the preva- 
lent illumination of the lamps, wore an air of un- 
reality, like a deserted theatre or a public garden 
at midnight. A man looked about him for the 
statues and tables. Not the least air of wind was 
stirring among the palms, and the silence was 
emphasised by the continuous clamour of the 
surf from the sea-shore, as it might be of traffic 
in the next street. 

Still talking, still soothing him, the captain 
hurried his patient on, brought him at last to the 
lagoon side, and, leading him down the beach 
laved his head and face with the tepid water. 
The paroxysm gradually subsided, the sobs be- 
came less convulsive, and then ceased. By an 
odd but not quite unnatural conjunction, the 
captain's soothing current of talk died away at 

159 



THE EBB-TIDE 

the same time and by proportional steps, and the 
pair remained sunk in silence. The lagoon broke 
at their feet in petty wavelets, and with a sound 
as delicate as a whisper; stars of all degrees looked 
down on their own images in the vast mirror; 
and the more angry colour of the Farallone's 
riding-lamp burned in the middle distance. For 
long they continued to gaze on the scene before 
them, and hearken anxiously to the rustle and 
tinkle of that miniature surf, or the more distant 
and loud reverberations from the outer coast. 
For long, speech was denied them ; and when the 
words came at last, they came to both simulta- 
neously. 

"Say, Herrick . . ." the captain was be- 
ginning. 

But Herrick, turning swiftly towards his 
companion, beat him down with the eager cry: 
"Let's up anchor, captain, and to sea!" 

"Where to, my son?" said the captain. "Up 
anchor's easy saying. But where to?" 

"To sea," responded Herrick. "The sea's 
big enough! To sea, away from this dreadful 
island and that oh that sinister man!" 

11 Oh, we'll see about that ! " said Davis. "You 
brace up, and we'll see about that. You're all 
run down, that's what's wrong with you. You're 
all nerves like Jemimar. You've got to brace up 
good, and be yourself again, and then we'll talk." 

"To sea," reiterated Herrick; "to sea to- 
night now this moment!" 

160 



THE OPEN DOOR 

"It can't be, my son," replied the captain 
firmly. "No ship of mine puts to sea without 
provisions; you can take that for settled." 

"You don't seem to understand," said Her- 
rick. "The whole thing is over, I tell you. 
There is nothing to do here, when he knows all. 
That man there with the cat knows all. Can't 
you take it in?" 

"All what?" asked the captain, visibly dis- 
composed. "Why, he received us like a perfect 
gentleman, and treated us real handsome until 
you began with your foolery; and I must say 
I've seen men shot for less, and nobody sorry! 
What more do you expect anyway?" 

Herrick rocked to and fro upon the sand, shak- 
ing his head. 

"Guying us," he said. "He was guying us 
only guying us; it's all we're good for." 

"There was one queer thing, to be sure," ad- 
mitted the captain, with a misgiving of the voice; 
"that about the sherry. Damned if I caught on 
to that. Say, Herrick, you didn't give me away? " 

"Oh! give you away!" repeated Herrick with 
weary, querulous scorn. "What was there to 
giveaway? We're transparent ; we've got rascal 
branded on us; detected rascal detected rascal! 
Why, before he came on board, there was the 
name painted out, and he saw the whole thing. 
He made sure we would kill him there and then, 
and stood guying you and Huish on the chance. 
He calls that being frightened ! Next he had me 

161 



THE EBB-TIDE 

ashore; a fine time I had! The two wolves, he 
calls you and Huish. What is the puppy doing 
with the two wolves? he asked. He showed me 
his pearls; he said they might be dispersed be- 
fore morning, and all hung by a hair and smiled 
as he said it; such a smile! Oh, it's no use, I 
tell you! He knows all; he sees through all. 
We only make him laugh with our pretences he 
looks at us, and laughs like God!" 

There was a silence. Davis stood with con- 
torted brows, gazing into the night. 

"The pearls? " he said suddenly. "He showed 
them to you? He has them? " 

"No, he didn't show them. I forgot; only 
the safe they were in," said Herrick. " But you'll 
never get them!" 

"I've two words to say to that," said the cap- 
tain. 

"Do you think he would have been so easy at 
table unless he was prepared?" cried Herrick. 
"The servants were both armed. He was armed 
himself; he always is, he told me. You will 
never deceive his vigilance. Davis, I know it! 
It's all up, I tell you, and keep telling you, 
and proving it. All up; all up! There's noth- 
ing for it, there's nothing to be done. All gone 
life, honour, love. my God! my God! why 
was I born?" 

Another pause followed upon this outburst. 

The captain put his hands to his brow. 

"Another thing!" he broke out. "Why did 
162 



THE OPEN DOOR 

he tell you all this? Seems like madness to 
me." 

Herrick shook his head with gloomy iteration. 
"You wouldn't understand if I were to tell you," 
said he. 

"I guess I can understand any blame' thing 
that you can tell me," said the captain. 

"Well, then, he's a fatalist," said Herrick. 

"What's that a fatalist?" said Davis. 

" Oh, it's a fellow that believes a lot of things," 
said Herrick. " Believes that his bullets go true ; 
believes that all falls out as God chooses, do as 
you like to prevent it; and all that." 

"Why, I guess I believe right so myself," said 
Davis. 

"You do?" said Herrick. 

"You bet I do!" said Davis. 

Herrick shrugged his shoulders. "Well, you 
must be a fool," said he, and he leaned his head 
upon his knees. 

The captain stood biting his hands. 

"There's one thing sure," he said at last. "I 
must get Huish out of that. He's not fit to hold 
his end up with a man like you describe." 

And he turned to go away. The words had 
been quite simple ; not so the tone, and the other 
was quick to catch it. 

"Davis!" he cried, "no! Don't do it! Spare 
me, and don't do it! Spare yourself, and leave 
it alone for God's sake! for your children's 
sake!" 

163 



THE EBB-TIDE 

His voice rose to a passionate shrillness; 
another moment, and he might be overheard by 
their not distant victim. But Davis turned on 
him with a savage oath and gesture; and the 
miserable young man rolled over on his face on 
the sand, and lay speechless and helpless. 

The captain meanwhile set out rapidly for Att- 
water's house. As he went, he considered with 
himself eagerly, his thoughts racing. The man 
had understood ; he had mocked them from the 
beginning. He would teach him to make a 
mockery of John Davis ! Herrick thought him a 
god. Give him a second to aim in, and the god 
was overthrown. He chuckled as he felt the butt 
of his revolver. It should be done now, as he 
went in. From behind? It was difficult to get 
there. From across the table? No; the cap- 
tain preferred to shoot standing, so as you could 
be sure to get your hand upon your gun. The 
best would be to summon Huish, and when Att- 
water stood up and turned ah, then would be 
the moment 1 Wrapped in this ardent prefigura- 
tion of events, the captain posted towards the 
house with his head down. 

"Hands up! Halt!" cried the voice of Att- 
water. 

And the captain, before he knew what he was 
doing, had obeyed. The surprise was complete 
and irremediable. Coming on the top crest of 
his murderous intentions, he had walked straight 
into an ambuscade, and now stood, with his 

164 



THE OPEN DOOR 

hands impotently lifted, staring at the verandah. 

The party was now broken up. Attwater 
leaned on a post, and kept Davis covered with a 
Winchester. One of the servants was hard by, 
with a second at the port arms, leaning a little 
forward, round-eyed with eager expectancy. In 
the open space at the head of the stair, Huish 
was partly supported by the other native, his 
face wreathed in meaningless smiles, his mind 
seemingly sunk in the contemplation of an un- 
lighted cigar. 

"Well," said Attwater, "you seem to me to be 
a very twopenny pirate 1" 

The captain uttered a sound in his throat for 
which we have no name; rage choked him. 

"I'm going to give you Mr. Whish or the 
winesop that remains of him," continued Att- 
water. "He talks a great deal when he drinks, 
Captain Davis of the Sea Ranger. But I have 
quite done with him, and return the article with 
thanks. Now, "he cried sharply, ' ' another false 
movement like that, and your family will have 
to deplore the loss of an invaluable parent ; keep 
strictly still, Davis." 

Attwater said a word in the native, his eye 
still undeviatingly fixed on the captain, and the 
servant thrust Huish smartly forward from the 
brink of the stair. With an extraordinary simul- 
taneous dispersion of his members, that gentle- 
man bounded forth into space, struck the earth, 
ricocheted, and brought up with his arms about 

165 



THE EBB-TIDE 

a palm. His mind was quite a stranger to these 
events. The expression of anguish that de- 
formed his countenance at the moment of the 
leap was probably mechanical. And he suffered 
these convulsions in silence; clung to the tree 
like an infant; and seemed, by his dips, to sup- 
pose himself engaged in the pastime of bobbing 
for apples. A more finely sympathetic mind, or 
a more observant eye, might have remarked, a 
little in front of him on the sand, and still quite 
beyond reach, the unlighted cigar. 

"There is your Whitechapel carrion!" said 
Attwater. "And now you might very well ask 
me why I do not put a period to you at once, as 
you deserve. I will tell you why, Davis. It is 
because I have nothing to do with the Sea 
Ranger and the people you drowned, or the 
Farallone and the champagne that you stole. 
That is your account with God; He keeps it, and 
He will settle it when the clock strikes. In my 
own case, I have nothing to go on but suspicion ; 
and I do not kill on suspicion, not even vermin 
like you. But understand ; if ever I see any of 
you again, it is another matter, and you shall eat 
a bullet. And now take yourself off. March! 
And as you value what you call your life, keep 
your hands up as you go!" 

The captain remained as he was, his hands up, 
his mouth open, mesmerised with fury. 

"March!" said Attwater. "One two- 
three!" 

166 



THE OPEN DOOR 

And Davis turned and passed slowly away. 
But even as he went, he was meditating a 
prompt, offensive return. In the twinkling of 
an eye he had leaped behind a tree, and was 
crouching there, pistol in hand, peering from 
either side of his place of ambush with bared 
teeth, a serpent already poised to strike. And 
already he was too late. Attwater and his serv- 
ants had disappeared, and only the lamps shone 
on the deserted table and the bright sand about 
the house, and threw into the night in all direc- 
tions the strong and tall shadows of the palms. 

Davis ground his teeth. Where were they 
gone, the cowards? To what hole had they re- 
treated beyond reach? It was in vain he should 
try anything he, single, and with a second-hand 
revolver, against three persons armed with Win- 
chesters, and who did not show an ear out of any 
of the apertures of that lighted and silent house. 
Some of them might have already ducked below 
it from the rear, and be drawing a bead upon him 
at that moment from the low-browed crypt, the 
receptacle of empty bottles and broken crockery. 
No, there was nothing to be done but to bring 
away (if it were still possible) his shattered and 
demoralised forces. 

"Huish," he said, "come along." 

' 's loss my ciga'," said Huish, reaching vague- 
ly forward. 

The captain let out a rasping oath. "Come 
right along here!" said he. 

167 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"'s all righ'. Sleep here 'th Atty Attwa. 
Go boar' t'morr'," replied the festive one. 

"If you ckm't come, and come now, by the 
living God I'll shoot you!" cried the captain. 

It is not to be supposed that the sense of these 
words in any way penetrated to the mind of 
Huish; rather that, in a fresh attempt upon the 
cigar, he over-balanced himself, and came flying 
erratically forward, a course which brought him 
within reach of Davis. 

"Now you walk straight," said the captain, 
clutching him, "or I'll know why not." 

"s lose my ciga'," replied Huish. 

The captain's contained fury blazed up for a 
moment. Ho twisted Huish round, grasped him 
by the neck of the coat, ran him in front of him 
to the pier-end, and flung him savagely forward 
on his face. 

"Look for your cigar, then, you swine!" said 
he; and blew his boat-call till the pea in it ceased 
to rattle. 

An immediate activity responded on board the 
Farallone; far-away voices, and soon the sound 
of oars, floated along the surface of the lagoon; 
and at the same time, from nearer hand, Herrick 
aroused himself and strolled languidly up. He 
bent over the insignificant figure of Huish, where 
it grovelled, apparently insensible, at the base of 
the figure-head. 

"Dead? "he asked. 

"No, he's not dead," said Davis. 
168 



THE OPEN DOOR 

"And Attwater?" asked Herrick. 

"Now you just shut your head!" replied Da- 
vis. "You can do that, I fancy; and by God, I'll 
show you how ! I'll stand no more of your drivel. ' ' 

They waited accordingly in silence till the boat 
bumped on the farthest piers, then raised Huish, 
head and heels, carried him down the gangway, 
and flung him summarily in the bottom. On the 
way out he was heard murmuring of the loss of 
his cigar; and after he had been handed up the 
side like baggage, and cast down in the alleyway 
to slumber, his last audible expression was: 
"Splen'l fT Attwa!" This the expert construed 
into * ' Splendid fellow, Attwater ! ' ' With so much 
innocence had this great spirit issued from the 
adventures of the evening. 

The captain went and walked in the waist 
with brief, irate turns; Herrick leaned his arms 
on the taffrail; the crew had all turned in. The 
ship had a gentle, cradling motion; at times a 
block piped like a bird. On shore, through the 
colonnade of palm stems, Attwater's house was 
to be seen shining steadily with many lamps. 
And there was nothing else visible, whether in 
the heaven above or in the lagoon below, but the 
stars and their reflections. It might have been 
minutes or it might have been hours that Her- 
rick leaned there, looking in the glorified water 
and drinking peace. "A bath of stars," he was 
thinking, when a hand was laid at last on his 
shoulder. 

169 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Herrick," said the captain, "I've been walk- 
ing off my trouble." 

A sharp jar passed through the young man, 
but he neither answered nor so much as turned 
his head. 

"I guess I spoke a little rough to you on 
shore," pursued the captain. "The fact is, I 
was real mad; but now it's over and you and 
me have to turn to and think." 

"I will not think," said Herrick. 

"Here, old man," said Davis kindly, "this 
won't fight, you know. You've got to brace up 
and help me get things straight. You're not 
going back on a friend? That's not like you, 
Herrick." 

"Oh, yes, it is," said Herrick. 

"Come, come!" said the captain, and paused 
as if quite at a loss. " Look here," he cried, "you 
have a glass of champagne ; / won't touch it, so 
that'll show you if I'm in earnest. But it's just 
the pick-me-up for you; it'll put an edge on you 
at once." 

"Oh, you leave me alone," said Herrick, and 
turned away. 

The captain caught him by the sleeve, and 
Herrick shook him off and turned on him, for 
the moment, like a demoniac. 

"Go to hell in your own way!" he cried. 

And he turned away again, this time un- 
checked, and stepped forward to where the boat 
rocked alongside, and ground occasionally against 

170 



THE OPEN DOOR 

the schooner. He looked about him; a corner 
of the house was interposed between the captain 
and himself; all was well; no eye must see him 
in that last act. He slid silently into the boat, 
thence silently into the starry water. Instinct- 
ively he swam a little; it would be time enough 
to stop by and by. 

The shock of the immersion brightened his 
mind immediately; the events of the ignoble day 
passed before him in a frieze of pictures; and he 
thanked "whatever gods there be" for that open 
door of suicide. In such a little while he would 
be done with it, the random business at an end, 
the prodigal son come home. A very bright 
planet shone before him and drew a trenchant 
wake along the water. He took that for his line 
and followed it; that was the last earthly thing 
that he should look upon; that radiant speck, 
which he had soon magnified into a city of Lapu- 
ta, along whose terraces there walked men and 
women of awful and benignant features, who 
viewed him with distant commiseration. These 
imaginary spectators consoled him; he told him- 
self their talk, one to another; it was of himself 
and his sad destiny. 

From such flights of fancy he was aroused by 
the growing coldness of the water. Why should 
he delay? Here, where he was now, let him drop 
the curtain, let him seek the ineffable refuge, let 
him lie down with all races and generations of 
men in the house of sleep. It was easy to say, 

171 



THE EBB-TIDE 

easy to do. To stop swimming there was no 
mystery in that, if he could do it. Could he? 
And he could not. He knew it instantly. He 
was aware instantly of an opposition in his mem- 
bers, unanimous and invincible, clinging to life 
with a single and fixed resolve, finger by finger, 
sinew by sinew; something that was at once he 
and not he; at once within and without him; the 
shutting of some miniature valve in his brain, 
which a single manly thought should suffice to 
open; and the grasp of an external fate ineluc- 
table as gravity. To any man there may come 
at times a consciousness that there blows through 
all the articulations of his body the wind of a 
spirit not wholly his; that his mind rebels; that 
another girds him and carries him whither he 
would not. It came now to Herrick, with the 
authority of a revelation. There was no escape 
possible. The open door was closed in his rec- 
reant face. He must go back into the world 
and amongst men without illusion. He must 
stagger on to the end with the pack of his re- 
sponsibility and his disgrace, until a cold, a blow, 
a merciful chance ball, or the more merciful 
hangman, should dismiss him from his infamy. 
There were men who could commit suicide; there 
were men who could not; and he was one who 
could not. 

For perhaps a minute there raged in his mind 
the coil of this discovery; then cheerless certi- 
tude followed, and, with an incredible simplicity 

172 



THE OPEN DOOR 

of submission to ascertained fact, he turned 
round and struck out for shore. There was a 
courage in this which he could not appreciate, 
the ignobility of his cowardice wholly occupying 
him. A strong current set against him like a 
wind in his face; he contended with it heavily, 
wearily, without enthusiasm, but with substan- 
tial advantage; marking his progress the while 
without pleasure, by the outline of the trees. 
Once he had a moment of hope. He heard to the 
southward of him, towards the centre of the 
lagoon, the wallowing of some great fish, doubt- 
less a shark, and paused for a little, treading 
water. Might not this be the hangman? he 
thought. But the wallowing died away; mere 
silence succeeded ; and Herrick pushed out again 
for the shore, raging as he went at his own na- 
ture. Ay, he would wait for the shark ; but if he 
had heard him coming! . . . His smile was 
tragic. He could have spat upon himself. 

About three in the morning, chance and the 
set of the current, and the bias of his own right- 
handed body, so decided it between them that he 
came to shore upon the beach in front of Att- 
water's. There he sat down, and looked forth 
into a world without any of the lights of hope. 
The poor diving-dress of self-conceit was sadly 
tattered. With the fairy tale of suicide, of a 
refuge always open to him, he had hitherto be- 
guiled and supported himself in the trials of life ; 
and behold ! that also was only a fairy tale ; that 

173 



( THE EBB-TIDE 

also was folk-lore. With the consequences of 
his acts he saw himself implacably confronted for 
the duration of life, stretched upon a cross, and 
nailed there with the iron bolts of his own 
cowardice. He had no tears, he told himself no 
stories. His disgust with himself was so com- 
plete, that even the process of apologetic mythol- 
ogy had ceased. He was like a man cast down 
from a pillar and every bone broken; he lay 
there, and admitted the facts, and did not at- 
tempt to rise. 

Dawn began to break over the far side of 
the atoll, the sky brightened, the clouds became 
dyed with gorgeous colours, the shadows of the 
night lifted. And suddenly Herrick was aware 
that the lagoon and the trees wore again then- 
daylight livery; and he saw, on board the Faral- 
lone, Davis extinguishing the lantern, and smoke 
rising from the galley. 

Davis, without doubt, remarked and recog- 
nised the figure on the beach or, perhaps, hesi- 
tated to recognise it for after he had gazed a 
long while from under his hand, he went into the 
house and fetched a glass. It was very power- 
ful ; Herrick had often used it. With an instinct 
of shame, he hid his face in his hands. 

"And what brings you here, Mr. Herrick-Hay, 
or Mr. Hay-Herrick? " asked the voice of Att- 
water. "Your back view from my present posi- 
tion is remarkably fine, and I would continue to 
present it. We can get on very nicely as we are, 

174 



THE OPEN DOOR 

and if you were to turn round, do you know, I 
think it would be awkward." 

Herrick slowly rose to his feet; his heart 
throbbed hard; a hideous excitement shook him, 
but he was master of himself. Slowly he turned 
and faced Attwater and the muzzle of a pointed 
rifle. "Why could I not do that last night?" 
he thought. 

"Well, why don't you fire?" he said aloud, 
with a voice that trembled. 

Attwater slowly put his gun under his arm, 
then his hands in his pockets. 

"What brings you here?" he repeated. 

"I don't know," said Herrick; and then, with 
a cry, "Can you do anything with me?" 

"Are you armed? " said Attwater. " I ask for 
the form's sake." 

"Armed? No!" said Herrick. "Oh, yes, I 
am, too!" 

And he flung upon the beach a dripping pistol. 

"You are wet," said Attwater. 

"Yes, I am wet," said Herrick. " Can you do 
anything with me?" 

Attwater read his face attentively. 

" It would depend a good deal upon what you 
are," said he. 

"What I am? A coward!" said Herrick. 

"There is very little to be done with that," 
said Attwater. "And yet the description hardly 
strikes one as exhaustive." 

"Oh! what does it matter?" cried Herrick. 
175 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Here I am. I am broken crockery; the whole 
of my life is gone to water; I have nothing left 
that I believe in, except my living horror of my- 
self. Why do I come to you? I don't know. 
You are cold, cruel, hateful; and I hate you, or 
I think I hate you. But you are an honest 
man, an honest gentleman. I put myself help- 
less in your hands. What must I do? If I can't 
do anything, be merciful, and put a bullet 
through me; it's only a puppy with a broken 
leg!" 

"If I were you, I would pick up that pistol, 
come up to the house, and put on some dry 
clothes," said Attwater. 

" If you really mean it? " said Herrick. "You 
know they we they But you know all." 

" I know quite enough," said Attwater. " Come 
up to the house." 

And the captain, from the deck of the Faral- 
lone, saw the two men pass together under the 
shadow of the grove. 



176 



CHAPTER XI 

DAVID AND GOLIATH 

HUISH had bundled himself up from the 
glare of the day, his face to the house, his 
knees retracted. The frail bones in the thin 
tropical raiment seemed scarce more considerable 
than a fowl's; and Davis, sitting on the rail, with 
his arm about a stay, contemplated him with 
gloom, wondering what manner of counsel that 
insignificant figure should contain. For since 
Herrick had thrown him off and deserted to the 
enemy, Huish, alone of mankind, remained to 
him to be a helper and oracle. 

He considered their position with a sinking 
heart. The ship was a stolen ship; the stores, 
whether from initial carelessness or ill adminis- 
tration during the voyage, were insufficient to 
carry them to any port except back to Papeete; 
and there retribution waited in the shape of a 
gendarme, a judge with a queer-shaped hat, and 
the horror of distant Noumea. Upon that side 
there was no glimmer of hope. Here, at the 
island, the dragon was roused: Attwater with 
his men and his Winchesters watched and pa- 

177 



THE EBB-TIDE 

trolled the house; let him who dare approach it. 
What else was then left but to sit there inactive, 
pacing the decks, until the Trinity Hall arrived, 
and they were cast into irons, or until the food 
came to an end, and the pangs of famine suc- 
ceeded? For the Trinity Hall Davis was pre- 
pared. He would barricade the house, and die 
there, defending it, like a rat in a crevice. But 
for the other? The cruise of the Farallone, into 
which he had plunged, only a fortnight before, 
with such golden expectations, could this be the 
nightmare end of it? The ship rotting at anchor, 
the crew stumbling and dying in the scuppers? 
It seemed as if any extreme of hazard were to be 
preferred to so grisly a certainty; as if it would 
be better to up-anchor, after all, put to sea at a 
venture, and perhaps perish at the hands of can- 
nibals on one of the more obscure Paumotus. 
His eye roved swiftly over sea and sky in quest 
of any promise of wind, but the fountains of the 
Trade were empty. Where it had run yesterday, 
and for weeks before, a roaring blue river chariot- 
ing clouds, silence now reigned, and the whole 
height of the atmosphere stood balanced. On 
the endless ribbon of island that stretched out to 
either hand of him its array of golden and green 
and silvery palms, not the most volatile frond 
was to be seen stirring; they drooped to their 
stable images in the lagoon like things carved of 
metal, and already their long line began to rever- 
berate heat. There was no escape possible that 

178 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

day, none probable on the morrow. And still 
the stores were running out. 

Then came over Davis, from deep down in the 
roots of his being, or at least from far back among 
his memories of childhood and innocence, a wave 
of superstition. This run of ill-luck was some- 
thing beyond natural ; the chances of the game 
were in themselves more various; it seemed as 
if the devil must serve the pieces. The devil? 
He heard again the clear note of Attwater's bell 
ringing abroad into the night, and dying away. 
How, if God . . . ? 

Briskly he averted his mind. Attwater 
that was the point. Attwater had food and a 
treasure of pearls, escape made possible in the 
present, riches in the future. They must come 
to grips with Attwater; the man must die. A 
smoky heat went over his face as he recalled the 
impotent figure he had made last night, and the 
contemptuous speeches he must bear in silence. 
Rage, shame, and the love of life all pointed the 
one way; and only invention halted. How to 
reach him? Had he strength enough? Was 
there any help in that misbegotten packet of 
bones against the house? 

His eyes dwelled upon him with a strange 
avidity, as though he would read into his soul; 
and presently the sleeper moved, stirred uneasily, 
turned suddenly round, and threw him a blink- 
ing look. Davis maintained the same dark stare, 
and Huish looked away again and sat up. 

179 



THE EBB-TIDE 

" Lord, I've an 'eadache on me! " said he. " I 
believe I was a bit swipey last night. Were's 
that cry-byby 'Errick? " 

"Gone," said the captain. 

"Ashore?" cried Huish. "Oh, I say, I'd 'a' 
gone, too." 

"Would you?" said the captain. 

"Yes, I would," replied Huish. "I like Att- 
water; Vs all right; we got on like one o'clock 
when you were gone. And ain't his sherry in it 
rather? It's like Spiers and Pond's Amontillado ! 
I wish I 'ad a drain of it now," he sighed. 

"Well, you'll never get no more of it, that's 
one thing," said Davis gravely. 

"Ere! wot's wrong with you, Dyvis? Cop- 
pers 'ot? Well, look at me! I ain't grumpy," 
said Huish. " I'm as plyful as a canyry-bird, I 



am. 





Yes," said Davis, "you're playful, I own 
that ; and you were playful last night, I believe, 
and a damned fine performance you made of it." 

"'Allo!" said Huish. "'Ow'sthis? Wot per- 
formance?" 

"Well, I'll tell you," said the captain, getting 
slowly off the rail. 

And he did, at full length, with every wounding 
epithet and absurd detail repeated and empha- 
sised; he had his own vanity and Huish's upon 
the grill and roasted them; and as he spoke he 
inflicted and endured agonies of humiliation. It 
was a plain man's masterpiece of the sardonic. 

180 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

"What do you think of it?" said he, when he 
had done, and looked down at Huish, flushed and 
serious, and yet jeering. 

"I'll tell you wot it is," was the reply, "you 
and me cut a pretty dicky figure." 

"That's so," said Davis; "a pretty measly 
figure, by God! And, by God! I want to see that 
man at my knees." 

"Ah! " said Huish. " 'Ow to get him there? " 

"That's it!" cried Davis. "How to get hold 
of him! They're four to two, though there's 
only one man among them to count, and that's 
Attwater. Get a bead on Attwater, and the 
others would cut and run and sing out like 
frightened poultry, and old man Herrick would 
come round with his hat for a share of the pearls. 
No, sir ! It's how to get hold of Attwater ! And 
we daren't even go ashore. He would shoot us 
in the boat like dogs." 

"Are you particular about having him dead 
or alive?" asked Huish. 

"I want to see him dead," said the captain. 

"Ah, well," said Huish. "Then I believe I'll 
do a bit of breakfast." 

And he turned into the house. 

The captain doggedly followed him.' 

"What's this? " he asked. "What's your idea, 
anyway?" 

"Oh, you let me alone, will you?" said Huish, 
opening a bottle of champagne. "You'll 'ear 
my idea soon enough. Wyte till I pour some 

181 



THE EBB-TIDE 

cham on my 'ot coppers." He drank a glass off, 
and affected to listen. ' 'Ark I " said he, " 'ear it 
fizz. Like 'am fryin', I declyre. 'Ave a glass, 
do, and look sociable." 

' ' No, ' ' said the captain, with emphasis. ' ' No, 
I will not! There's business." 

"You p'ys your money and you tykes your 
choice, my little man, ' ' returned Huish. * ' Seems 
rather a shyme to me to spoil your breakfast 
for wot's really ancient 'istory." 

He finished three parts of a bottle of cham- 
pagne and nibbled a corner of biscuit with ex- 
treme deliberation, the captain sitting opposite 
and champing the bit like an impatient horse. 
Then Huish leaned his arms on the table and 
looked Davis in the face. 

"Wen you're ready," said he. 

"Well, now, what's your idea?" said Davis, 
with a sigh. 

"Fair play!" said Huish. "What's yours?" 

"The trouble is that I've got none," replied 
Davis; and wandered for some time in aimless 
discussion of the difficulties in their path, and 
useless explanations of his own fiasco. 

"About done!" said Huish. 

"I'll dry up right here," replied Davis. 

"Well, then," said Huish, "you give me your 
'and across the table, and say: 'Gawd strike me 
dead if I don't back you up." 

His voice was hardly raised, yet it thrilled the 
hearer. His face seemed the epitome of cunning, 

182 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

and the captain recoiled from it as from a blow. 

"What for?" said he. 

' ' Luck, ' ' said Huish. ' ' Substantial guarantee 
demanded." 

And he continued to hold out his hand. 

" I don't see the good of any such tomfoolery," 
said the other. 

"I do, though," returned Huish. "Gimme 
your 'and and say the words, then you'll 'ear my 
view of it. Don't, and you don't." 

The captain went through the required form, 
breathing short, and gazing on the clerk with an- 
guish. What to fear he knew not ; yet he feared 
slavishly what was to fall from these pale lips. 

"Now, if you'll excuse me 'alf a second," said 
Huish, "I'll go and fetch the byby." 

"The baby?" said Davis. "What's that?" 

"Fragile. With care. This side up," replied 
the clerk, with a wink, as he disappeared. 

He returned, smiling to himself, and carrying 
in his hand a silk handkerchief. The long 
stupid wrinkles ran up Davis's brow as he saw it. 
What should it contain? He could think of 
nothing more recondite than a revolver. 

Huish resumed his seat. 

" Now," said he, " are you man enough to take 
charge of 'Errick and the niggers? Because I'll 
take care of Hattwater." 

"How?" cried Davis. "You can't!" 

"Tut, tut," said the clerk. "You gimme 
time. Wot 's the first point? The first point is, 

183 



THE EBB-TIDE 

that we can't get ashore; and I'll make you a 
present of that for a 'ard one. But 'ow about a 
flag of truce? Would that do the trick, d'ye 
think, or would Attwater simply blyze aw'y at 
us in the bloomin' boat like dawgs?" 

"No," said Davis, "I don't believe he would." 

"No more do I," said Huish. "I don't be- 
lieve he would either; and I'm sure I 'ope he 
won't. So then you can call us ashore. Next 
point is to get near the managin' direction. And 
for that I'm going to 'ave you write a letter, in 
w'ich you s'y you're ashymed to meet his eye, 
and that the bearer, Mr. J. L. 'Uish, is empow- 
ered to represent you; armed with w'ich seem- 
in'ly simple expedient, Mr. J. L. 'Uish will pro- 
ceed to business." 

He paused, like one who had finished, but still 
held Davis with his eye. 

"How?" said Davis. "Why?" 

"Well, you see, you're big," returned Huish; 
"'e knows you 'ave a gun in your pocket, and 
anybody can see with 'alf an eye that you ain't 
the man to 'esitate about usin' it. So it's no go 
with you, and never was; you're out of the run- 
nin', Dyvis. But he won't be afryde of me, I'm 
such a little un. I'm unarmed no kid about 
that and I'll 'old my 'ands up right enough." 
He paused. "If I can manage to sneak up 
nearer to him as we talk," he resumed, "you 
look out and back me up smart. If I don't, we 
go aw'y again, and nothink to 'urt. See?" 

184 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

The captain's face was contorted by the fren- 
zied effort to comprehend. 

"No, I don't see," he cried. "I can't see. 
What do you mean?" 

"I mean to do for the beast!" cried Huish, in 
a burst of venomous triumph. "I'll bring the 
'ulkin' bully to grass. He's 'ad his larks out of 
me: I'm goin' to 'ave my lark out of 'im; and a 
good lark, tool" 

"What is it?" said the captain, almost in a 
whisper. 

"Sure you want to know?" asked Huish. 

Davis rose and took a turn in the house. 

"Yes, I want to know," he said at last, with 
an effort. 

"W'en your back's at the wall, you do the 
best you can, don't you?" began the clerk. "I 
s'y that, because I 'appen to know there's a 
prejudice against it; it's considered vulgar, aw- 
f'ly vulgar." He unrolled the handkerchief and 
showed a four-ounce jar. "This 'ere's vitriol, 
this is," said he. 

The captain stared upon him with a whitening 
face. 

"This is the stuff!" he pursued, holding it up. 
"This'll burn to the bone; you'll see it smoke 
upon 'im like 'ell fire. One drop upon 'is 
bloomin' heyesight, and I'll trouble you for 
Attwater!" 

"No, no, by God!" exclaimed the captain. 

"Now, see 'ere, ducky," said Huish, "this is 
185 



THE EBB-TIDE 

my bean-feast, I believe? I'm goin' up to that 
man single-'anded, I am. 'E's about seven foot 
high and I'm five foot one. 'E's a rifle in his 
'and, 'e's on the look-out ; 'e wasn't born yester- 
day. This is Dyvid and Goliar, I tell you. If 
I 'ad ast you to walk up and face the music I 
could understand. But I don't. I on'y ast you 
to stand by and spifflicate the niggers. It'll all 
come in quite natural; you'll see, else! Fust 
thing you know you'll see him running round 
and 'owling like a good un . . ." 

"Don't!" said Davis. "Don't talk of it!" 

"Well, you are a juggins!" exclaimed Huish. 
"What did you want? You wanted to kill him, 
and tried to last night. You wanted to kill the 
'ole lot of them, and tried to, and 'ere I show you 
'ow; and because there's some medicine in a 
bottle, you kick up this fuss!" 

"I suppose that's so," said Davis. "It don't 
seem someway s reasonable, only there it is." 

"It's the happlication of science, I suppose?" 
sneered Huish. 

"I don't know what it is," cried Davis, pacing 
the floor. "It's there; I draw the line at it. I 
can't put a finger to no such piggishness; it's too 
damned hateful I ' ' 

"And I suppose it's all your fancy pynted it," 
said Huish, "w'en you take a pistol and a bit o' 
lead, and copse a man's brains all over him? No 
accountin' for tystes." 

"I'm not denying it," said Davis; "it's some- 
186 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

thing here, inside of me. It's foolishness; I 
daresay it's damn foolishness. I don't argue, I 
just draw the line. Isn't there no other way? " 

"Look for yourself," said Huish. "I ain't 
wedded to this, if you think I am. I ain't am- 
bitious. I don't make a point of playin' the 
lead. I offer to, that's all; and if you can't 
show me better, by Gawd, I'm goin' to!" 

"Then the risk!" cried Davis. 

"If you ast me stryte, I should say it was a 
case of seven to one and no tykers," said Huish. 
"But that's my look-out, ducky, and I'm gyme. 
Look at me, Dyvis; there ain't any shilly-shally 
about me. I'm gyme, that's what I am; gyme 
all through." 

The captain looked at him. Huish sat there, 
preening his sinister vanity, glorying in his 
precedency in evil; and the villainous courage 
and readiness of the creature shone out of him 
like a candle from a lantern. Dismay and a kind 
of respect seized hold on Davis in his own de- 
spite. Until that moment he had seen the clerk 
always hanging back, always listless, uninter- 
ested, and openly grumbling at a word of any- 
thing to do; and now, by the touch of an en- 
chanter's wand, he beheld him sitting girt and 
resolved, and his face radiant. He had raised 
the devil, he thought, and asked who was to 
control him, and his spirits quailed. 

"Look as long as you like," Huish was going 
on. "You don't see any green in my eye. I 

187 

\ 



THE EBB-TIDE 

ain't afryde of Attwater, I ain't afryde of you, 
and I ain't afryde of words. You want to kill 
people, that's wot you want ; but you want to do 
it in kid gloves, and it can't be done that w'y. 
Murder ain't genteel, it ain't easy, it ain't safe, 
and it tykes a man to do it. 'Ere's the man." 

"Huish!" began the captain with energy, and 
then stopped, and remained staring at him with 
corrugated brows. 

"Well, hout with it," said Huish. " 'Ave you 
anythink else to put up? Is there any other 
cnanst to try?" 

The captain held his peace. 

"There you are, then," said Huish, with a 
shrug. 

Davis fell again to his pacing. 

"Oh, you may do sentry-go till you're blue in 
the mug; you won't find anythink else," said 
Huish. 

There was a little silence ; the captain, like a 
man launched on a swing, flying dizzily among 
extremes of conjecture and refusal. 

"But see," he said, suddenly pausing. "Can 
you? Can the thing be done? It it can't be 
easy." 

" If I get within twenty foot of 'im it'll be done ; 
so you look out," said Huish, and his tone of cer- 
tainty was absolute. 

"How can you know that?" broke from the 
captain in a choked cry. "You beast, I believe 
you've done it before I" 

188 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

"Oh, that's private affyres," returned Huish. 
"I ain't a talking man." 

A shock of repulsion struck and shook the 
captain. A scream rose almost to his lips; had 
he uttered it, he might have cast himself at the 
same moment on the debile body of Huish, might 
have picked him up, and flung him down, and 
wiped the cabin with him in a frenzy of cruelty 
that seemed half moral ; but the moment passed, 
and the abortive crisis left the man weaker. The 
stakes were so high, the pearls on the one hand, 
starvation and shame on the other. Ten years 
of pearls! The imagination of Davis translated 
them into a new, glorified existence for himself 
and his family. The seat of this new life must 
be in London, there were deadly reasons against 
Portland, Maine, and the pictures that came to 
him were of English manners. He saw his boys 
marching in the procession of a school, with 
gowns on, an usher marshalling them, and read- 
ing as he wanted in a great book. He was 
installed in a villa, semi-detached, the name, 
Rosemore, on the gate-posts. In a chair on the 
gravel walk he seemed to sit smoking a cigar, a 
blue ribbon in his buttonhole, victor over him- 
self and circumstances and the malignity of 
bankers. He saw the parlour with red curtains, 
and shells on the mantel-piece; and, with the fine 
inconsistency of visions, mixed a grog at the 
mahogany table ere he turned in. With that the 
Farallone gave one of the aimless and nameless 

189 



THE EBB-TIDE 

movements which (even in an anchored ship and 
even in the most profound calm) remind one of 
the mobility of fluids; and he was back again 
under the cover of the house, the fierce daylight 
besieging it all round and glaring in the chinks, 
and the clerk, in a rather airy attitude, awaiting 
his decision. 

He began to walk again. He aspired after the 
realisation of these dreams, like a horse nickering 
for water; the lust of them burned in his inside; 
and the only obstacle was Attwater, who had 
insulted him from the first. He gave Herrick a 
full share of the pearls; he insisted on it. Huish 
opposed him, and he trod the opposition down, 
and praised himself exceedingly. He was not 
going to use vitriol himself. Was he Huish's 
keeper? It was a pity he had asked, but after 
all! ... he saw the boys again in the school 
procession, with the gowns he had thought to be 
so " tony " long since. . . . And at the same 
time the incomparable shame of the last evening 
blazed up in his mind. 

"Have it your own way," he said hoarsely. 

"Oh, I knew you would walk up," said Huish. 
"Now for the letter. There's paper, pens, and 
ink. Sit down, and I'll dictyte." 

The captain took a seat and the pen, looked 
a while helplessly at the paper, then at Huish. 
The swing had gone the other way; there was a 
blur upon his eyes. "It's a dreadful business," 
he said, with a strong twitch of his shoulders. 

190 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

"It's rather a start, no doubt," said Huish. 
"Tyke a dip of ink. That's it. William John 
Hattwater, Esq., Sir:" he dictated. 

"How do you know his name is William 
John? " asked Davis. 

" Saw it on a packing-case," said Huish. " Got 
that?" 

"No," said Davis. "But there's another 
thing. What are we to write?" 

"Oh my golly!" cried the exasperated Huish. 
"Wot kind of man do you call yourself? I'm 
goin' to tell you wot to write that's my pitch 
if you'll just be so bloomin' condescendin' as to 
write it down! William John Hattwater, Esq., 
Sir:" he reiterated. And the captain at last 
beginning half mechanically to move his pen, 
the dictation proceeded: "It is with feelin's of 
shyme and 'artfelt contrition that I approach you 
after the yumiliatin ' events of last night. Our Mr. 
'Errick has left the ship, and will have doubtless 
communicated to you the nature of our 'opes. 
Needless to s'y, these are no longer possible. Fate 
'as declyred against us, and we bow the 'ead. Well 
awyre as I am of the just suspicions with w'ich I 
am regarded, I do not venture to solicit the fyvour 
of an interview for myself; but in order to put an end 
to a situytion w'ich must be equally pyneful to all, 
I 'ave deputed my friend and partner, Mr. J. L. 
Huish, to I'y before you my proposals, and w'ich 
by their moderytion will, I trust, be found to merit 
your attention. Mr. J. L. Huish is entirely un- 

191 



THE EBB-TIDE 

armed, I swear to Gawd! and will 'old 'is 'ands over 
'is 'ead from the moment he begins to approach 
you. I am your fytheful servant, John Dyvis." 

Huish read the letter with the innocent joy 
of amateurs, chuckled gustfully to himself, and 
reopened it more than once after it was folded, 
to repeat the pleasure ; Davis meanwhile sitting 
inert and heavily frowning. 

Of a sudden he rose; he seemed all abroad. 
"No!" he cried. "No! It can't be! It's too 
much! It's damnation! God would never for- 
give it!" 

"Well, and 'oo wants him to? " returned Huish, 
shrill with fury. "You were damned years ago 
for the Sea Rynger, and said so yourself. Well, 
then, be damned for something else, and 'old 
your tongue." 

The captain looked at him mistily. " No," he 
pleaded, "no, old man, don't do it." 

"'Ere now," said Huish, "I'll give you my 
ultimytum. Go or st'y w'ere you are; I don't 
mind; I'm goin' to see that man and chuck this 
vitriol in his eyes. If you st'y I'll go alone; the 
niggers will likely knock me on the 'ead, and a 
fat lot you'll be the better! But there's one 
thing sure: I'll 'ear no more of your moonin', 
mullygrubbin' rot, and tyke it stryte." 

The captain took it with a blink and a gulp. 
Memory, with phantom voices, repeated in his 
ears something similar, something he had once 
said to Herrick, years ago, it seemed. 

192 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

"Now, gimme over your pistol," said Huish. 
" I 'ave to see all clear. Six shots, and mind you 
don't wyste them." 

The captain, like a man in a nightmare, laid 
down his revolver on the table, and Huish wiped 
the cartridges and oiled the works. 

It was close on noon: there was no breath of 
wind, and the heat was scarce bearable when the 
two men came on deck, had the boat manned, 
and passed down, one after another, into the 
stern-sheets. A white shirt at the end of an oar 
served as a flag of truce ; and the men, by direc- 
tion, and to give it the better chance to be ob- 
served, pulled with extreme slowness. The isle 
shook before them like a place incandescent; on 
the face of the lagoon blinding copper suns, no 
bigger than sixpences, danced and stabbed them 
in the eyeball. There went up from sand and 
sea, and even from the boat, a glare of scathing 
brightness; and as they could only peer abroad 
from between closed lashes, the excess of light 
seemed to be changed into a sinister darkness, 
comparable to that of a thunder-cloud before it 
bursts. 

The captain had come upon this errand for any 
one of a dozen reasons, the last of which was de- 
sire for its success. Superstition rules all men ; 
semi-ignorant and gross natures, like that of 
Davis, it rules utterly. For murder he had been 
prepared; but this horror of the medicine in 
the bottle went beyond him, and he seemed to 

193 



THE EBB-TIDE 

himself to be parting the last strands that united 
him to God. The boat carried him on to repro- 
bation, to damnation ; and he suffered himself to 
be carried, passively consenting, silently bidding 
farewell to his better self and his hopes. 

Huish sat by his side in towering spirits that 
were not wholly genuine. Perhaps as brave a 
man as ever lived, brave as a weasel, he must still 
reassure himself with the tones of his own voice ; 
he must play his part to exaggeration, he must 
out-Herod Herod, insult all that was respectable, 
and brave all that was formidable, in a kind of 
desperate wager with himself. So the young 
soldier may jest as he goes into the battle; so 
perhaps, of old, the highwaymen blasphemed on 
the scaffold. 

"Golly, but it's 'ot!" said he. "Cruel 'ot, I 
call it. Nice d'y to get your gruel in ! I s'y, you 
know, it must feel awf 'ly peculiar to get bowled 
over on a d'y like this. I'd rather have it on a 
cowld and frosty morning, wouldn't you? [Sing- 
ing]. 'Ere we go round the mulberry bush on a 
cowld and frosty mornin. [Spoken.] Give you 
my word, I 'aven't thought o' that in ten years; 
used to sing it at a hinfant school in 'Ackney 
'Ackney Wick it was. [Singing.] This is the 
way the tyler does, the tyler does. [Spoken.] 
Bloomin' 'umbug. 'Ow are you off now, for the 
notion of a future styte? Do you cotton to 
the tea-fight view, or the old red-'ot bogey 
business?" 

194 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

"Oh, dry up," said the captain. 

" No, but I want to know," said Huish. " It's 
within the sp'ere of practical politics for you and 
me, my boy; we may both be bowled over, one 
up, t'other down, within the next ten minutes. 
It would be rather a lark, now, if you only 
skipped across, came up smilin' t'other side, 
and a hangel met you with a B.- and S.- under 
his wing. 'Ullo, you'd s'y: come! I tyke this 
kind." 

The captain groaned. While Huish was thus 
airing and exercising his bravado, the man at his 
side was actually engaged in prayer. Prayer, 
what for? God knows. But out of his incon- 
sistent, illogical, agitated spirit, a stream of 
supplication was poured forth, inarticulate as 
himself, earnest as death and judgment. 

' * Thou Gawd seest me ! ' ' continued Huish. ' ' I 
remember I had that written in my Bible. I re- 
member the Bible, too, all about Abinadab and 
parties. Well, Gawd!" said he, apostrophising 
the meridian, "you're goin' to see a rum start 
presently, I promise you that!" 

The captain bounded. 

"I'll have no blasphemy!" he cried, "no blas- 
phemy in my boat." 

"All right, cap," said Huish. "Anythink to 
oblige. Any other topic you would like to sud- 
gest, the rynegyge, the lightnin'-rod, Shykes- 
peare, or the musical glasses? 'Ere's conversy- 
tion on tap. Put a penny in the slot, and . . . 

195 



THE EBB-TIDE 

'ullo! 'ere they are!" he cried. "Now or never! 
Is 'e goin' to shoot?" 

And the little man straightened himself into an 
alert and dashing attitude, and looked steadily 
at the enemy. 

But the captain rose half up in the boat, with 
eyes protruding. 

"What's that? "he cried. 

"Wot's wot?" said Huish. 

"Those blamed things," said the captain. 

And indeed it was something strange. Her- 
rick and Attwater, both armed with Winchesters, 
had appeared out of the grove behind the figure- 
head; and to either hand of them, the sun glis- 
tened upon two metallic objects, locomotory like 
men, and occupying in the economy of these 
creatures the places of heads, only the heads 
were faceless. To Davis, hit between wind and 
water, his mythology appeared to have come 
alive, and Tophet to be vomiting demons. But 
Huish was not mystified a moment. 

" Divers' 'elmets, you ninny! Can't you see?" 
he said. 

' ' So they are, ' ' said Davis, with a gasp. ' ' And 
why? Oh, I see, it's for armour." 

"Wot did I tell you?" said Huish. "Dyvid 
and Goliar all the w'y and back." 

The two natives (for they it was that were 
equipped in this unusual panoply of war) spread 
out to right and left, and at last lay down in the 
shade, on the extreme flank of the position. Even 

196 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

now that the mystery was explained, Davis was 
hatefully pre-occupied, stared at the flame on 
their crests, and forgot, and then remembered 
with a smile, the explanation. 

Attwater withdrew again into the grove, and 
Herrick, with his gun under his arm, came down 
the pier alone. About halfway down he halted 
and hailed the boat. 

"What do you want?" he cried. 

" I'll tell that to Mr. Attwater," replied Huish, 
stepping briskly on the ladder. "I don't tell it 
to you, because you plyed the trucklin' sneak. 
Here's a letter for him; tyke it, and give it, and 
be 'anged to you I" 

"Davis, is this all right?" said Herrick. 

Davis raised his chin, glanced swiftly at Her- 
rick and away again, and held his peace. The 
glance was charged with some deep emotion, but 
whether of hatred or fear, it was beyond Herrick 
to divine. 

"Well," he said, "I'll give the letter." He 
drew a score with his foot on the boards of the 
gangway. "Till I bring the answer, don't move 
a step past this." 

And he returned to where Attwater leaned 
against a tree, and gave him the letter. Att- 
water glanced it through. 

"What does that mean?" he asked, passing it 
to Herrick. " Treachery? ' ' 

"Oh, I suppose so," said Herrick. 

"Well, tell him to come on," said Attwater. 
197 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"One isn't a fatalist for nothing. Tell him to 
come on and to look out." 

Herrick returned to the figure-head. Half- 
way down the pier the clerk was waiting, with 
Davis by his side. 

" You are to come along, Huish," said Herrick. 
"He bids you look out, no tricks." 

Huish walked briskly up the pier, and paused 
face to face with the young man. 

"Were is 'e?" said he, and to Herrick's sur- 
prise, the low-bred, insignificant face before 
him flushed suddenly crimson and went white 
again. 

"Right forward," said Herrick, pointing. 
"Now, your hands above your head." 

The clerk turned away from him and towards 
the figure-head, as though he were about to 
address to it his devotions he was seen to heave 
a deep breath and raised his arms. In common 
with many men of his unhappy physical endow- 
ments, Huish's hands were disproportionately 
long and broad, and the palms in particular enor- 
mous; a four-ounce jar was nothing in that capa- 
cious fist. The next moment he was plodding 
steadily forward on his mission. 

Herrick at first followed. Then a noise in his 
rear startled him, and he turned about, to find 
Davis already advanced as far as the figure-head. 
He came, crouching and open-mouthed, as the 
mesmerised may follow the mesmeriser; all hu- 
man considerations, and even the care of his 

198 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

own life, swallowed up in one abominable and 
burning curiosity. 

"Halt!" cried Herrick, covering him with his 
rifle. "Davis, what are you doing, manP You 
are not to come." 

Davis instinctively paused, and regarded him 
with a dreadful vacancy of eye. 

"Put your back to that figure-head, do you 
hear me? and stand fast!" said Herrick. 

The captain fetched a breath, stepped back 
against the figure-head, and instantly redirected 
his glances after Huish. 

There was a hollow place of the sand in that 
part, and as it were a glade among the cocoa- 
palms, in which the direct noonday sun blazed 
intolerably. At the far end, in the shadow, the 
tall figure of Attwater was to be seen leaning on 
a tree. Towards him, with his hands over his 
head, and his steps smothered in the sand, the 
clerk painfully waded. The surrounding glare 
threw out and exaggerated the man's smallness; 
it seemed no less perilous an enterprise, this that 
he was gone upon, than for a whelp to besiege a 
citadel. 

"There, Mr. Whish, That will do," cried 
Attwater. "From that distance, and keeping 
your hands up like a good boy, you c(m very 
well put me in possession of the skipper's views." 

The interval betwixt them was perhaps forty 
feet; and Huish measured it with his eye, and 
breathed a curse. He was already distressed 

199 



THE EBB-TIDE 

with labouring in the loose sand, and his arms 
ached bitterly from their unnatural position. In 
the palm of his right hand, the jar was ready; 
and his heart thrilled, and his voice choked, as 
he began to speak. 

"Mr. Hattwater," said he, "I don't know if 
ever you 'ad a mother " 

"I can set your mind at rest: I had," returned 
Attwater; "and henceforth, if I might venture 
to suggest it, her name need not recur in our 
communications. I should perhaps tell you that 
I am not amenable to the pathetic." 

"I am sorry, sir, if I 'ave seemed to tresparse 
on your private feelin's," said the clerk, cringing 
and stealing a step. "At least, sir, you will 
never pe'suade me that you are not a perfec' 
gentleman. I know a gentleman when I see 
him; and as such, I 'ave no 'esitation in throwin' 
myself on your merciful consideration. It is 
'ard lines, no doubt; it's 'ard lines to have to 
hown yourself beat; it's 'ard lines to 'ave to 
come and beg to you for charity." 

"When, if things had only gone right, the 
whole place was as good as your own?" suggest- 
ed Attwater. "I can understand the feeling." 

"You are judging me, Mr. Attwater," said the 
clerk, "and Gawd knows how unjustly! 'Thou 
Gawd seest me,' was the tex' I 'ad in my Bible, 
w'ich my father wrote it in with 'is own 'and 
upon the fly leaft." 

"I am sorry I have to beg your pardon once 
200 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

more," said Attwater; "but do you know, you 
seem to me to be a trifle nearer, which is entirely 
outside of our bargain. And I would venture to 
suggest that you take one two three steps 
back; and stay there." 

The devil, at this staggering disappointment, 
looked out of Huish's face, and Attwater was 
swift to suspect. He frowned, he stared on the 
little man, and considered. Why should he be 
creeping nearer? The next moment his gun was 
at his shoulder. 

"Kindly oblige me by opening your hands. 
Open your hands wide let me see the fingers 
spread, you dog throw down that thing you're 
holding I" he roared, his rage and certitude in- 
creasing together. 

And then, at almost the same moment, the 
indomitable Huish decided to throw, and Att- 
water pulled the trigger. There was scarce the 
difference of a second between the two resolves, 
but it was in favour of the man with the rifle ; and 
the jar had not yet left the clerk's hand, before 
the ball shattered both. For the twinkling of 
an eye, the wretch was in hell's agonies, bathed 
in liquid flames, a screaming bedlamite ; and then 
a second and more merciful bullet stretched him 
dead. 

The whole thing was come and gone in a 
breath. Before Herrick could turn about, before 
Davis could complete his cry of horror, the clerk 
lay in the sand, sprawling and convulsed. 

201 



THE EBB-TIDE 

Attwater ran to the body; he stooped and 
viewed it ; he put his finger in the vitriol, and his 
face whitened and hardened with anger. 

Davis had not yet moved; he stood astonished, 
with his back to the figure-head, his hands clutch- 
ing it behind him, his body inclined forward from 
the waist. 

Attwater turned deliberately and covered him 
with his rifle. 

"Davis," he cried, in a voice like a trumpet, 
" I give you sixty seconds to make your peace 
with God." 

Davis looked, and his mind awoke. He did 
not dream of self-defence, he did not reach for 
his pistol. He drew himself up instead to face 
death, with a quivering nostril. 

"I guess I'll not trouble the Old Man," he 
said. " Considering the job I was on, I guess it's 
better business to just shut my face." 

Attwater fired ; there came a spasmodic move- 
ment of the victim, and immediately above the 
middle of his forehead, a black hole marred the 
whiteness of the figure-head. A dreadful pause ; 
then again the report, and the solid sound and 
jar of the bullet in the wood; and this time the 
captain had felt the wind of it along his cheek. 
A third shot, and he was bleeding from one ear; 
and along the levelled rifle, Attwater smiled like 
a Red Indian. 

The cruel game of which he was the puppet 
was now clear to Davis; three times he had 

202 



DAVID AND GOLIATH 

drunk of death, and he must look to drink of it 
seven times more before he was despatched. He 
held up his hand. 

"Steady!" he cried, 'Til take your sixty 
seconds." 

"Good!" said Attwater. 

The captain shut his eyes tight, like a child; 
he held his hands up at last with a tragic and 
ridiculous gesture. 

"My God, for Christ's sake, look after my 
two kids," he said; and then after a pause and 
a falter, "for Christ's sake. Amen." 

And he opened his eyes and looked down the 
rifle with a quivering mouth. 

" But don't keep fooling me long! " he pleaded. 

"That's all your prayer?" asked Attwater, 
with a singular ring in his voice. 

"Guess so," said Davis. 

"So?" said Attwater, resting the butt of his 
rifle on the ground, "is that done? Is your 
peace made with Heaven? Because it is with 
me. Go, and sin no more, sinful father. And 
remember that whatever you do to others, God 
shall visit it again a thousandfold upon your 
innocents." 

The wretched Davis came staggering forward 
from his place against the figure-head, fell upon 
his knees, and waved his hands and fainted. 

When he came to himself again, his head was 
on Attwater's arm, and close by stood one of 
the men in diver's helmet, holding a bucket of 

203 



THE EBB-TIDE 

water, r from which his late executioner now 
laved his face. The memory of that dreadful 
passage returned upon him in a clap; again he 
saw Huish lying dead, again he seemed to him- 
self to totter on the brink of an unplumbed eter- 
nity. With trembling hands he seized hold of 
the man whom he had come to slay; and his 
voice broke from him like that of a child among 
the nightmares of fever: "Oh! isn't there no 
mercy? Oh! what must I do to be saved?" 

"Ah!" thought Attwater, "here is the true 
penitent." 



204 



CHAPTER XII 

A TAIL-PIECE 

ON a very bright, hot, lusty, strongly blow- 
ing noon, a fortnight after the events re- 
corded, and a month since the curtain rose upon 
this episode, a man might have been spied pray- 
ing on the sand by the lagoon beach. A point 
of palm-trees isolated him from the settlement; 
and from the place where he knelt, the only 
work of man's hand that interrupted the expanse 
was the schooner Farallone, her berth quite 
changed, and rocking at anchor some two miles 
to windward in the midst of the lagoon. The 
noise of the Trade ran very boisterous in all 
parts of the island ; the nearer palm-trees crashed 
and whistled in the gusts, those farther off con- 
tributed a humming bass, like the roar of cities; 
and yet, to any man less absorbed, there must 
have risen at times over this turmoil of the winds 
the sharper note of the human voice from the 
settlement. There all was activity. Attwater, 
stripped to his trousers and lending a strong hand 
of help, was directing and encouraging five Kana- 
kas; from his lively voice, and their more lively 

205 



THE EBB-TIDE 

efforts, it was to be gathered that some sudden 
and joyful emergency had set them in this 
bustle; and the Union Jack floated once more 
on its staff. But the suppliant on the beach, 
unconscious of their voices, prayed on with in- 
stancy and fervour, and the sound of his voice 
rose and fell again, and his countenance bright- 
ened and was deformed with changing moods 
of piety and terror. 

Before his closed eyes the skiff had been for 
some time tacking towards the distant and de- 
serted Farallone; and presently the figure of 
Herrick might have been observed to board her, 
to pass for a while into the house, thence forward 
to the forecastle, and at last to plunge into the 
main hatch. In all these quarters, his visit was 
followed by a coil of smoke; and he had scarce 
entered his boat again and shoved off, before 
flames broke forth upon the schooner. They 
burned gayly ; kerosene had not been spared, and 
the bellows of the Trade incited the conflagra- 
tion. About halfway on the return voyage, 
when Herrick looked back, he beheld the Faral- 
lone wrapped to the topmasts in leaping arms 
of fire, and the voluminous smoke pursuing him 
along the face of the lagoon. In one hour's 
time, he computed, the waters would have closed 
over the stolen ship. It so chanced that, as his 
boat flew before the wind with much vivac- 
ity, and his eyes were continually busy in the 
wake, measuring the progress of the flames, he 

206 



A TAIL-PIECE 

found himself embayed to the northward of the 
point of palms, and here became aware at the 
same time of the figure of Davis immersed in his 
devotion. An exclamation, part of annoyance, 
part of amusement, broke from him, and he 
touched the helm and ran the prow upon the 
beach not twenty feet from the unconscious 
devotee. Taking the painter in his hand, he 
landed, drew near, and stood over him. And 
still the voluble and incoherent stream of prayer 
continued unabated. It was not possible for 
him to overhear the suppliant's petitions, which 
he listened to some while in a very mingled mood 
of humour and pity, and it was only when his 
own name began to occur and to be conjoined 
with epithets, that he at last laid his hand on the 
captain's shoulder. 

" Sorry to interrupt the exercise," said he, "but 
I want you to look at the Farallone." 

The captain scrambled to his feet, and stood 
gasping and staring. " Mr. Herrick, don't startle 
a man like that!" he said. "I don't seem 

someway s rightly myself since " he broke 

off. "What did you say, anyway? Oh, the 
Farallone," and he looked languidly out. 

"Yes," said Herrick, "there she burns; and 
you may guess from that what the news is." 

"The Trinity Hall, I guess," said the cap- 
tain. 

"The same," said Herrick, "sighted half an 
hour ago, and coming up hand over fist." 

207 



THE EBB-TIDE 

"Well, it don't amount to a hill of beans," 
said the captain, with a sigh. 

"Oh, come, that's rank ingratitude 1" cried 
Herrick. 

"Well," replied the captain, meditatively, 
"you mayn't just see the way that I view it in, 
but I'd 'most rather stay here upon this island. 
I found peace here, peace in believing. Yes, I 
guess this island is about good enough for John 
Davis." 

"I never heard such nonsense!" cried Herrick. 
"What! with all turning out in your favour the 
way it does, the Farallone wiped out, the crew 
disposed of, a sure thing for your wife and fam- 
ily, and you yourself Attwater's spoiled darling 
and pet penitent!" 

"Now, Mr. Herrick, don't say that," said the 
captain, gently, "when you know he don't make 
no difference between us. But, oh, why not be 
one of us? Why not come to Jesus right away, 
and let's meet in yon beautiful land? That's 
just the one thing wanted; just say 'Lord, I be- 
lieve, help Thou mine unbelief!' and He'll fold 
you in His arms. You see, I know; I been a 
sinner myself." 



208 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 
A FRAGMENT 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

INTRODUCTORY 215 

CHAPTER 

I. LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR . 217 

II. FATHER AND SON 237 

III. IN THE MATTER OF THE HANGING 

OF DUNCAN JOPP 246 

IV. OPINIONS OF THE BENCH .... 267 
V. WINTER ON THE MOORS .... 280 

1. At Hermiston 280 

2. Kirstie 285 

3. A Border Family .... 290 

VI. A LEAF FROM CHRISTINA'S PSALM- 
BOOK ... 313 

VII. ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES . . . 349 

VIII. A NOCTURNAL VISIT 373 

IX. AT THE WEAVER'S STONE . . . 384 

EDITORIAL NOTE BY SIDNEY COLVIN . . 393 

GLOSSARY OF SCOTS WORDS . 405 



211 



TO 

MY TTIFE 

rain falling and the rainbow drawn 
On Lammermuir. Hearkening I heard again 
In my precipitous city beaten belld 
jyinnow the keen tea wind. And here afar, 
Intent on my own race and place, I wrote. 

Take thou the writing : thine it id. For who 
Burnished the jword, blew on the drowsy coal, 
Held dtill the target higher, chary of praise 
And prodigal of counsel'' who but thou ? 
So now, in the end, if this the leadt be good, 
If any deed be done, if any fire 
Burn in the imperfect page, the praise be thine. 

R. L. S. 



INTRODUCTORY 

IN the wild end of a moorland parish, far out 
of the sight of any house, there stands a cairn 
among the heather, and a little by east of it, in 
the going down of the braeside, a monument 
with some verses half defaced. It was here that 
Claverhouse shot with his own hand the Pray- 
ing Weaver of Balweary, and the chisel of Old 
Mortality has clinked on that lonely gravestone. 
Public and domestic history have thus marked 
with a bloody finger this hollow among the hills; 
and since the Cameronian gave his life there, 
two hundred years ago, in a glorious folly, and 
without comprehension or regret, the silence of 
the moss has been broken once again by the re- 
port of firearms and the cry of the dying. 

The Deil's Hags was the old name. But the 
place is now called Francie's Cairn. For a while 
it was told that Francie walked. Aggie Hogg 
met him in the gloaming by the cairnside, and 
he spoke to her, with chattering teeth, so that 
his words were lost. He pursued Rob Todd (if 
any one could have believed Robbie) for the space 
of half a mile with pitiful entreaties. But the 

215 



INTRODUCTORY 

age is one of incredulity ; these superstitious dec- 
orations speedily fell off; and the facts of the 
story itself, like the bones of a giant buried there 
and half dug up, survived, naked and imperfect, 
in the memory of the scattered neighbours. To 
this day, of winter nights, when the sleet is on 
the window and the cattle are quiet in the byre, 
there will be told again, amid the silence of the 
young and the additions and corrections of the 
old, the tale of the Justice-Clerk and of his son 
young Hermiston, that vanished from men's 
knowledge; of the Two Kirsties and the Four 
Black Brothers of the Cauldstaneslap; and of 
Frank Innes, "the young fool advocate," that 
came into these moorland parts to find his 
destiny. 



216 



CHAPTER I 

LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 




HE Lord Justice-Clerk was a 
stranger in that part of the coun- 
try ; but his lady wife was known 
there from a child, as her race 
had been before her. The old 
"riding Rutherfords of Hermis- 
ton," of whom she was the last descendant, had 
been famous men of yore, ill neighbours, ill sub- 
jects, and ill husbands to their wives though not 
their properties. Tales of them were rife for 
twenty miles about; and their name was even 
printed in the page of our Scots histories, not 
always to their credit. One bit the dust at Flod- 
den; one was hanged at his peel door by James 
the Fifth; another fell dead in a carouse with 
Tom Dalzell; while a fourth (and that was Jean's 
own father) died presiding at a Hell-Fire Club, 
of which he was the founder. There were many 
heads shaken in Crossmichael at that judgment; 
the more so as the man had a villainous reputa- 
tion among high and low, and both with the god- 
ly and the worldly. At that very hour of his 

217 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

demise, he had ten going pleas before the session, 
eight of them oppressive. And the same doom 
extended even to his agents; his grieve, that had 
been his right hand in many a left-hand business, 
being cast from his horse one night and drowned 
in a peat-hag on the Kye-skairs; and his very 
doer (although lawyers have long spoons) sur- 
viving him not long, and dying on a sudden in a 
bloody flux. 

In all these generations, while a male Ruther- 
ford was in the saddle with his lads, or brawling 
in a change-house, there would be always a white- 
faced wife immured at home in the old peel or 
the later mansion-house. It seemed this succes- 
sion of martyrs bided long, but took their ven- 
geance in the end, and that was in the person 
of the last descendant, Jean. She bore the name 
of the Rutherfords, but she was the daughter of 
their trembling wives. At the first she was not 
wholly without charm. Neighbours recalled in 
her, as a child, a strain of elfin wilfulness, gentle 
little mutinies, sad little gaieties, even a morning 
gleam of beauty that was not to be fulfilled. She 
withered in the growing, and (whether it was the 
sins of her sires or the sorrows of her mothers) 
came to her maturity depressed, and, as it were, 
defaced; no blood of life in her, no grasp or 
gaiety; pious, anxious, tender, tearful, and in- 
competent. 

It was a wonder to many that she had married 
seeming so wholly of the stuff that makes old 

218 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

maids. But chance cast her in the path of Adam 
Weir, then the new Lord Advocate, a recognised, 
risen man, the conqueror of many obstacles, 
and thus late in the day beginning to think upon 
a wife. He was one who looked rather to obedi- 
ence than beauty, yet it would seem he was 
struck with her at the first look. " Wha's she? " 
he said, turning to his host; and, when he had 
been told, "Ay," says he, "she looks menseful. 

She minds me "; and then, after a pause 

(which some have been daring enough to set 
down to sentimental recollections), "Is she 
releegious?" he asked, and was shortly after, at 
his own request, presented. The acquaintance, 
which it seems profane to call a courtship, was 
pursued with Mr. Weir's accustomed industry, 
and was long a legend, or rather a source of 
legends, in the Parliament House. He was de- 
scribed coming, rosy with much port, into the 
drawing-room, wanting direct up to the lady, and 
assailing her with pleasantries, to which the em- 
barrassed fair one responded, in what seemed a 
kind of agony, "Eh, Mr. Weir!" or "0, Mr. 
Weir! " or " Keep me, Mr. Weir! " On the very 
eve of their engagement it was related that one 
had drawn near to the tender couple, and had 
overheard the lady cry out, with the tones of one 
who talked for the sake of talking, "Keep me, 
Mr. Weir, and what became of him?" and the 
profound accents of the suitor's reply, "Haangit, 
mem, haangit." The motives upon either side 

219 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

were much debated. Mr. Weir must have sup- 
posed his bride to be somehow suitable ; perhaps 
b,e belonged to that class of men who think a 
weak head the ornament of women an opinion 
invariably punished in this life. Her descent and 
her estate were beyond question. Her wayfar- 
ing ancestors and her litigious father had done 
well by Jean. There was ready money and there 
were broad acres, ready to fall wholly to the 
husband, to lend dignity to his descendants, and 
to himself a title, when he should be called upon 
the Bench. On the side of Jean there was per- 
haps some fascination of curiosity as to this un- 
known male animal that approached her with 
the roughness of a ploughman and the aplomb 
of an advocate. Being so trenchantly opposed 
to all she knew, loved, or understood, he may 
well have seemed to her the extreme, if scarcely 
the ideal, of his sex. And besides, he was an ill 
man to refuse. A little over forty at the period 
of his marriage, he looked already older, and to 
the force of manhood added the senatorial dig- 
nity of years ; it was, perhaps, with an unreverend 
awe, but he was awful. The Bench, the Bar, 
and the most experienced and reluctant witness, 
bowed to his authority and why not Jeannie 
Rutherford? 

The heresy about foolish women is always 
punished, I have said, and Lord Hermiston be- 
gan to pay the penalty at once. His house in 
George Square was wretchedly ill-guided; noth- 

220 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

ing answerable to the expense of maintenance 
but the cellar, which was his own private care. 
When things went wrong at dinner, as they con- 
tinually did, my lord would look up the table 
at his wife: " I think these broth would be better 
to swim in than to sup." Or else to the butler: 
"Here, M'Killop, awa' wi' this Raadical gigot 
tak' it to the French, man, and bring me some 
puddocks! It seems rather a sore kind of busi- 
ness that I should be all day in Court haanging 
Raadicals, and get nawthing to my denner." Of 
course this was but a manner of speaking, and 
he had never hanged a man for being a Radical 
in his life; the law, of which he was the faithful 
minister, directing otherwise. And of course 
these growls were in the nature of pleasantry, 
but it was of a recondite sort ; and uttered as they 
were in his resounding voice, and commented on 
by that expression which they called in the Par- 
liament House " Hermiston's hanging face" 
they struck mere dismay into the wife. She 
sat before him speechless and fluttering; at each 
dish, as at a fresh ordeal, her eye hovered toward 
my lord's countenance and fell again; if he but 
ate in silence, unspeakable relief was her portion; 
if there were complaint, the world was darkened. 
She would seek out the cook, who was always her 
sister in the Lord. "0 my dear, this is the most 
dreidful thing that my lord can never be con- 
tented in his own house!" she would begin; and 
weep and pray with the cook; and then the cook 

221 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

would pray with Mrs. Weir; and the next day's 
meal would never be a penny the better and 
the next cook (when she came) would be worse, 
if anything, but just as pious. It was often 
wondered that Lord Hermiston bore it as he did ; 
indeed he was a stoical old voluptuary, contented 
with sound wine and plenty of it. But there 
were moments when he overflowed. Perhaps 
half a dozen times in the history of his married 
life "Here! tak' it awa', and bring me a piece of 
bread and kebbuck!" he had exclaimed, with an 
appalling explosion of his voice and rare gestures. 
None thought to dispute or to make excuses; 
the service was arrested; Mrs. Weir sat at the 
head of the table whimpering without disguise; 
and his lordship opposite munched his bread and 
cheese in ostentatious disregard. Once only 
Mrs. Weir had ventured to appeal. He was pass- 
ing her chair on his way into the study. 

"0, Edom!" she wailed, in a voice tragic with 
tears, and reaching out to him both hands, in 
one of which she held a sopping pocket-handker- 
chief. 

He paused and looked upon her with a face 
of wrath, into which there stole, as he looked, a 
twinkle of humour. 

" Noansense ! " he said. " You and your noan- 
sense ! What do I want with a Christian faim'ly ? 
I want Christian broth! Get me a lass that can 
plain-boil a potato, if she was a whiire off the 
streets." And with these words, which echoed 

222 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

in her tender ears like blasphemy, he had passed 
on to his study and shut the door behind him. 

Such was the housewifery in George Square. 
It was better at Hermiston, where Kirstie Elliot, 
the sister of a neighbouring bonnet-laird, and an 
eighteenth cousin of the lady's, bore the charge 
of all, and kept a trim house and a good country 
table. Kirstie was a woman in a thousand, 
clean, capable, notable; once a moorland Helen, 
and still comely as a blood horse and healthy as 
the hill wind. High in flesh and voice and col- 
our, she ran the house with her whole intemper- 
ate soul, in a bustle, not without buffets. Scarce 
more pious than decency in those days required, 
she was the cause of many an anxious thought 
and many a tearful prayer to Mrs. Weir. House- 
keeper and mistress renewed the parts of Martha 
and Mary ; and though with a pricking conscience 
Mary reposed on Martha's strength as on a rock. 
Even Lord Hermiston held Kirstie in a partic- 
ular regard. There were few with whom he un- 
bent so gladly, few whom he favoured with so 
many pleasantries. " Kirstie and me maun have 
our joke," he would declare, in high good-hu- 
mour, as he buttered Kirstie's scones and she 
waited at table. A man who had no need either 
of love or of popularity, a keen reader of men 
and of events, there was perhaps only one truth 
for which he was quite unprepared: he would 
have been quite unprepared to learn that Kirstie 
hated him. He thought maid and master were 

223 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

well matched ; hard, handy, healthy, broad Scots 
folk, without a hair of nonsense to the pair of 
them. And the fact was that she made a god- 
dess and an only child of the effete and tearful 
lady; and even as she waited at table her hands 
would sometimes itch for my lord's ears. 

Thus, at least, when the family were at Her- 
miston, not only my lord, but Mrs. Weir too, 
enjoyed a holiday. Free from the dreadful 
looking-for of the miscarried dinner, she would 
mind her seam, read her piety books, and take 
her walk (which was my lord's orders), some- 
times by herself, sometimes with Archie, the 
only child of that scarce natural union. The 
child was her next bond to life. Her frosted 
sentiment bloomed again, she breathed deep of 
life, she let loose her heart, in that society. The 
miracle of her motherhood was ever new to her. 
The sight of the little man at her skirt intoxi- 
cated her with the sense of power, and froze her 
with the consciousness of her responsibility. She 
looked forward, and, seeing him in fancy grow 
up and play his diverse part on the world's thea- 
tre, caught in her breath and lifted up her cour- 
age with a lively eifort. It was only with the 
child that she forgot herself and was at moments 
natural; yet it was only with the child that she 
had conceived and managed to pursue a scheme 
of conduct. Archie was to be a great man and 
a good ; a minister if possible, a saint for certain. 
She tried to engage his mind upon her favourite 

224 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

books, Rutherford's "Letters,'" Scougal's "Grace 
Abounding,'" and the like. It was a common 
practice of hers (and strange to remember now) 
that she would carry the child to the Deil's Hags, 
sit with him on the Praying Weaver's stone and 
talk of the Covenanters till their tears ran down. 
Her view of history was wholly artless, a design 
in snow and ink; upon the one side, tender inno- 
cents with psalms upon their lips; upon the other 
the persecutors, booted, bloody-minded, flushed 
with wine; a suffering Christ, a raging Beelzebub. 
Persecutor was a word that knocked upon the 
woman's heart; it was her highest thought of 
wickedness, and the mark of it was on her house. 
Her great-great-grandfather had drawn the 
sword against the Lord's anointed on the field of 
Rullion Green, and breathed his last (tradition 
said) in the arms of the detestable Dalyell. Nor 
could she blind herself to this, that had they 
lived in these old days, Hermiston himself would 
have been numbered alongside of Bloody Mac- 
kenzie and the politic Lauderdale and Rothes, 
in the band of God's immediate enemies. The 
sense of this moved her to the more fervour ; she 
had a voice for that name of persecutor that 
thrilled in the child's marrow ; and when one day 
the mob hooted and hissed them all in my lord's 
travelling carriage, and cried, "Down with the 
persecutor! down with Hanging Hermiston!" 
and mamma covered her eyes and wept, and 
papa let down the glass and looked out upon the 

225 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

rabble with his droll formidable face, bitter and 
smiling, as they said he sometimes looked when 
he gave sentence, Archie was for the moment 
too much amazed to be alarmed, but he had 
scarce got his mother by herself before his shrill 
voice was raised demanding an explanation: 
Why had they called papa a persecutor? 

"Keep me, my precious!" she exclaimed. 
" Keep me, my dear! this is poleetical. Ye must 
never ask me anything poleetical, Erchie. Your 
faither is a great man, my dear, and it's no 
for me or you to be judging him. It would be 
telling us all, if we behaved ourselves in our 
several stations the way your faither does in his 
high office ; and let me hear no more of any such 
disrespectful and undutiful questions! No that 
you meant to be undutiful, my lamb; your 
mother kens that she kens it well, dearie! " and 
so slid off to safer topics, and left on the mind of 
the child an obscure but ineradicable sense of 
something wrong. 

Mrs. Weir's philosophy of life was summed in 
one expression tenderness. In her view of the 
universe, which was all lighted up with a glow 
out of the doors of hell, good people must walk 
there in a kind of ecstasy of tenderness. The 
beasts and plants had no soul; they were here 
but for a day, and let their day pass gently ! And 
as for the immortal men, on what black, down- 
ward path were many of them wending, and to 
what a horror of an immortality I "Are not two 

226 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

sparrows," "Whosoever shall smite thee," "God 
sendeth His rain," "Judge not that ye be not 
judged" these texts made her body of divinity; 
she put them on in the morning with her clothes 
and lay down to sleep with them at night ; they 
haunted her like a favourite air, they clung about 
her like a favourite perfume. Their minister 
was a marrowy expounder of the law, and my 
lord sat under him with relish; but Mrs. Weir 
respected him from far off; heard him (like the 
cannon of a beleaguered city) usefully booming 
outside on the dogmatic ramparts; and mean- 
while, within and out of shot, dwelt in her private 
garden, which she watered with grateful tears. 
It seems strange to say of this colourless and in- 
effectual woman, but she was a true enthusiast, 
and might have made the sunshine and the glory 
of a cloister. Perhaps none but Archie knew she 
could be eloquent ; perhaps none but he had seen 
her her colour raised, her hands clasped or 
quivering -glow with gentle ardour. There is a 
corner of the policy of Hermiston, where you 
come suddenly in view of the summit of Black 
Fell, sometimes like the mere grass top of a hill, 
sometimes (and this is her own expression) like a 
precious jewel in the heavens. On such days, 
upon the sudden view of it, her hand would 
tighten on the child's fingers, her voice rise like 
a song. "I to the hills!" she would repeat. 
"And 0, Erchie, are na these like the hills of 
Naphtali?" and her easy tears would flow. 

227 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Upon an impressionable child the effect of this 
continual and pretty accompaniment to life was 
deep. The woman's quietism and piety passed on 
to his different nature undiminished; but where- 
as in her it was a native sentiment, in him it 
was only an implanted dogma. Nature and the 
child's pugnacity at times revolted. A cad from 
the Potterrow once struck him in the mouth; 
he struck back, the pair fought it out in the back 
stable lane towards the Meadows, and Archie 
returned with a considerable decline in the num- 
ber of his front teeth, and unregenerately boast- 
ing of the losses of the foe. It was a sore day 
for Mrs. Weir; she wept and prayed over the 
infant backslider until my lord was due from 
Court, and she must resume that air of tremu- 
lous composure with which she always greeted 
him. The judge was that day in an observant 
mood, and remarked upon the absent teeth. 

"I am afraid Erchie will have been fechting 
with some of they blagyard lads," said Mrs. 
Weir. 

My lord's voice rang out as it did seldom in 
the privacy of his own house. "I'll have nonn 
of that, sir!" he cried. "Do you hear me? 
nonn of that ! No son of mine shall be spelder- 
ing in the glaur with any dirty raibble." 

The anxious mother was grateful for so much 
support ; she had even feared the contrary. And 
that night when she put the child to bed " Now, 
my dear, ye see!" she said, "I told you what 

228 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

your faither would think of it, if he heard ye 
had fallen into this dreidful sin; and let you and 
me pray to God that ye may be keepit from the 
like temptation or stren'thened to resist it!" 

The womanly falsity of this was thrown away. 
Ice and iron cannot be welded; and the points 
of view of the Justice-Clerk and Mrs. Weir were 
not less unassimilable. The character and posi- 
tion of his father had long been a stumbling- 
block to Archie, and with every year of his age 
the difficulty grew more instant. The man was 
mostly silent; when he spoke at all, it was to 
speak of the things of the world, always in a 
worldly spirit, often in language that the child 
had been schooled to think coarse, and some- 
times with words that he knew to be sins in them- 
selves. Tenderness was the first duty, and my 
lord was invariably harsh. God was love; the 
name of my lord (to all who knew him) was fear. 
In the world, as schematised for Archie by his 
mother, the place was marked for such a crea- 
ture. There were some whom it was good to 
pity and well (though very likely useless) to 
pray for; they were named reprobates, goats, 
God's enemies, brands for the burning; and 
Archie tallied every mark of identification, and 
drew the inevitable private inference that the 
Lord Justice-Clerk was the chief of sinners. 

The mother's honesty was scarce complete. 
There was one influence she feared for the child 
and still secretly combated; that was my lord's; 

229 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

and half unconsciously, half in a wilful blindness, 
she continued to undermine her husband with 
his son. As long as Archie remained silent, she 
did so ruthlessly, with a single eye to heaven and 
the child's salvation; but the day came when 
Archie spoke. It was 1801, and Archie was 
seven, and beyond his years for curiosity and 
logic, when he brought the case up openly. If 
judging were sinful and forbidden, how came 
papa to be a judge? to have that sin for a trade? 
to bear the name of it for a distinction? 

"I can't see it," said the little Rabbi, and 
wagged his head. 

Mrs. Weir abounded in commonplace replies. 

" No, I canna see it," reiterated Archie. "And 
I'll tell you what, mamma, I don't think you 
and me's justifeed in staying with him." 

The woman awoke to remorse ; she saw herself 
disloyal to her man, her sovereign and bread- 
winner, in whom (with what she had of worldli- 
ness) she took a certain subdued pride. She 
expatiated in reply on my lord's honour and 
greatness; his useful services in this world of 
sorrow and wrong, and the place in which he 
stood, far above where babes and innocents could 
hope to see or criticise. But she had builded too 
well Archie had his answers pat : Were not babes 
and innocents the type of the kingdom of heaven? 
Were not honour and greatness the badges of the 
world? And at any rate, how about the mob 
that had once seethed about the carriage? 

230 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

"It's all very fine," he concluded, "but in my 
opinion, papa has no right to be it. And it 
seems that's not the worst yet of it. It seems 
he's called 'the Hanging Judge' it seems he's 
crooool. I'll tell you what it is, mamma, there's 
a tex' borne in upon me : It were better for that 
man if a mile-stone were bound upon his back 
and him flung into the deepestmost pairts of the 
sea." 

"0 my lamb, ye must never say the like of 
that!" she cried. "Ye're to honour faither and 
mother, dear, that your days may be long in the 
land. It's Atheists that cry out against him 
French Atheists, Erchie ! Ye would never surely 
even yourself down to be saying the same thing 
as French Atheists? It would break my heart 
to think that of you. And 0, Erchie, here arena 
you setting up to judge ? And have ye no' forgot 
God's plain command the First with Promise, 
dear? Mind you upon the beam and the mote ! ' ' 

Having thus carried the war into the enemy's 
camp, the terrified lady breathed again. And 
no doubt it is easy thus to circumvent a child 
with catchwords, but it may be questioned how 
far it is effectual. An instinct in his breast de- 
tects the quibble, and a voice condemns it. He 
will instantly submit, privately hold the same 
opinion. For even in this simple and antique 
relation of the mother and the child, hypocrisies 
are multiplied. 

When the Court rose that year and the family 
231 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

returned to Hermiston, it was a common remark 
in all the country that the lady was sore failed. 
She seemed to lose and seize again her touch 
with life, now sitting inert in a sort of durable 
bewilderment, anon waking to feverish and weak 
activity. She dawdled about the lasses at their 
work, looking stupidly on; she fell to rummaging 
in old cabinets and presses, and desisted when 
half through; she would begin remarks with an 
air of animation and drop them without a strug- 
gle. Her common appearance was of one who 
has forgotten something and is trying to remem- 
ber ; and when she overhauled, one after another, 
the worthless and touching mementoes of her 
youth, she might have been seeking the clue to 
that lost thought. During this period she gave 
many gifts to the neighbours and house lassies, 
giving them with a manner of regret that em- 
barrassed the recipients. 

The last night of all she was busy on some fe- 
male work, and toiled upon it with so manifest 
and painful a devotion that my lord (who was 
not often curious) inquired as to its nature. 

She blushed to the eyes. "0, Edom, it's for 
you!" she said. "It's slippers. I I hae never 
made ye any." 

"Ye daft auld wife!" returned his lordship. 
"A bonny figure I would be, palmering about in 
bauchles !' ; 

The next day, at the hour of her walk, Kirstie 
interfered. Kirstie took this decay of her mis- 

232 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

tress very hard; bore her a grudge, quarrelled 
with and railed upon her, the anxiety of a genuine 
love wearing the disguise of temper. This day 
of all days she insisted disrespectfully, with rus- 
tic fury, that Mrs. Weir should stay at home. 
But, "No, no," she said, "it's my lord's orders," 
and set forth as usual. Archie was visible in the 
acre bog, engaged upon some childish enterprise, 
the instrument of which was mire; and she stood 
and looked at him a while like one about to call; 
then thought otherwise, sighed, and shook her 
head, and proceeded on her rounds alone. The 
house lassies were at the burnside washing, 
and saw her pass with her loose, weary, dowdy 
gait. 

"She's a terrible feckless wife, the mistress!" 
said the one. 

"Tut," said the other, "the wumman's seeck." 

" Weel, I canna see nae differ in her," returned 
the first. "A fiishionless quean, a feckless car- 
line." 

The poor creature thus discussed rambled a 
while in the grounds without a purpose. Tides 
in her mind ebbed and flowed, and carried her 
to and fro like seaweed. She tried a path, paused, 
returned, and tried another; questing, forgetting 
her quest ; the spirit of choice extinct in her bos- 
om, or devoid of sequency. On a sudden, it 
appeared as though she had remembered, or had 
formed a resolution, wheeled about, returned 
with hurried steps, and appeared in the dining- 

233 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

room where Kirstie was at the cleaning, like 
one charged with an important errand. 

"Kirstie!" she began, and paused; and then 
with conviction, "Mr. Weir isna speeritually 
minded, but he has been a good man to me." 

It was perhaps the first time since her hus- 
band's elevation that she had forgotten the han- 
dle to his name, of which the tender, inconsistent 
woman was not a little proud. And when Kir- 
stie looked up at the speaker's face, she was 
aware of a change. 

"Godsake, what's the maitter wi' ye, mem?" 
cried the housekeeper, starting from the rug. 

" I do not ken," answered her mistress, shaking 
her head. "But he is not speeritually minded, 
my dear." 

"Here, sit down with ye! Godsake, what ails 
the wife?" cried Kirstie, and helped and forced 
her into my lord's own chair by the cheek of the 
hearth. 

"Keep me, what's this?" she gasped. "Kir- 
stie, what's this? I'm frich'ened." 

They were her last words. 

It was the lowering nightfall when my lord 
returned. He had the sunset in his back, all 
clouds and glory; and before him, by the way- 
side, spied Kirstie Elliott waiting. She was dis- 
solved in tears, and addressed him in the high, 
false note of barbarous mourning, such as still 
lingers modified among Scots heather. 

"The Lord peety ye, Hermiston! the Lord pre- 
234 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

pare ye!" she keened out. "Weary upon me, 
that I should have to tell it!" 

He reined in his horse and looked upon her 
with the hanging face. 

"Has the French landit?" cried he. 

"Man, man," she said, "is that a' ye can think 
ofp The Lord prepare ye, the Lord comfort 
and support ye!" 

"Is onybody deid?" says his lordship. "It's 
no Erchie?" 

"Bethankit, no!" exclaimed the woman, star- 
tled into a more natural tone. "Na, na, it's no 
sae bad as that. It's the mistress, my lord ; she 
just fair flittit before my e'en. She just gi'ed a 
sab and was by wi' it. Eh, my bonny Miss 
Jeannie, that I mind sae weel!" And forth 
again upon that pouring tide of lamentation in 
which women of her class excel and over-abound. 

Lord Hermiston sat in the saddle, beholding 
her. Then he seemed to recover command up- 
on himself. 

"Weel, it's something of the suddenest," said 
he. "But she was a dwaibly body from the 
first." 

And he rode home at a precipitate amble with 
Kirstie at his horse's heels. 

Dressed as she was for her last walk, they had 
laid the dead lady on her bed. She was never 
interesting in life; in death she was not impres- 
sive; and as her husband stood before her, with 
his hands crossed behind his powerful back, that 

235 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

which he looked upon was the very image of 
the insignificant. 

"Her and me were never cut out for one an- 
other," he remarked at last. "It was a daft- 
like marriage." And then, with a most unusual 
gentleness of tone, "Puir bitch," said he, "puir 
bitch ! " Then suddenly : "Where's Erchie? " 

Kirstie had decoyed him to her room and 
given him "a jeely-piece." 

"Ye have some kind of gumption, too," ob- 
served the Judge, and considered his housekeeper 
grimly. "When all's said," he added, "I micht 
have done waur I micht have been marriet 
upon a skirling Jezebel like you!" 

"There's naebody thinking of you, Hermis- 
tonl" cried the offended woman. "We think 
of her that's out of her sorrows. And could she 
have done waur? Tell me that, Henniston 
tell me that before her clay-cauld corp!" 

"Weel, there's some of them gey an' ill to 
please," observed his lordship. 



236 



CHAPTER II 

FATHER AND SON 

MY Lord Justice-Clerk was known to many; 
the man Adam Weir perhaps to none. He 
had nothing to explain or to conceal; he sufficed 
wholly and silently to himself; and that part of 
our nature which goes out (too often with false 
coin) to acquire glory or love, seemed in him to 
be omitted. He did not try to be loved, he did 
not care to be; it is probable the very thought 
of it was a stranger to his mind. He was an 
admired lawyer, a highly unpopular judge; and 
he looked down upon those who were his inferiors 
in either distinction, who were lawyers of less 
grasp or judges not so much detested. In all 
the rest of his days and doings, not one trace of 
vanity appeared; and he went on through life 
with a mechanical movement, as of the uncon- 
scious, that was almost august. 

He saw little of his son. In the childish mal- 
adies with which the boy was troubled, he would 
make daily inquiries and daily pay him a visit, 
entering the sick-room with a facetious and 
appalling countenance, letting off a few per- 

237 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

functory jests, and going again swiftly, to the 
patient's relief. Once, a Court holiday falling 
opportunely, my lord had his carriage, and drove 
the child himself to Hermiston, the customary 
place of convalescence. It is conceivable he had 
been more than usually anxious, for that journey 
always remained in Archie's memory as a thing 
apart, his father having related to him from be- 
ginning to end, and with much detail, three au- 
thentic murder cases. Archie went the usual 
round of other Edinburgh boys, the high school 
and the college; and Hermiston looked on, or 
rather looked away, with scarce an affectation 
of interest in his progress. Daily, indeed, upon 
a signal after dinner, he was brought in, given 
nuts and a glass of port, regarded sardonically, 
sarcastically questioned. "Well, sir, and what 
have you donn with your book to-day?" my 
lord might begin, and set him posers in law Latin. 
To a child just stumbling into Corderius, Papin- 
ian and Paul proved quite invincible. But papa 
had memory of no other. He was not harsh 
to the little scholar, having a vast fund of pa- 
tience learned upon the bench, and was at no 
pains whether to conceal or to express his disap- 
pointment. "Well, ye have a long jaunt before 
ye yet!" he might observe, yawning, and fall 
back on his own thoughts (as like as not) until 
the time came for separation, and my lord would 
take the decanter and the glass, and be off to 
the back chamber looking on the Meadows, 

238 



FATHER AND SON 

where he toiled on his cases till the hours were 
small. There was no ' ' fuller man ' ' on the Bench ; 
his memory was marvellous, though wholly legal; 
if he had to "advise" extempore, none did it 
better; yet there was none who more earnestly 
prepared. As he thus watched in the night, or 
sat at table and forgot the presence of his son, 
no doubt but he tasted deeply of recondite 
pleasures. To be wholly devoted to some in- 
tellectual exercise is to have succeeded in life; 
and perhaps only in law and the higher mathe- 
matics may this devotion be maintained, suffice 
to itself without reaction, and find continual re- 
wards without excitement. This atmosphere of 
his father's sterling industry was the best of 
Archie's education. Assuredly it did not attract 
him; assuredly, it rather rebutted and depressed. 
Yet it was still present, unobserved like the 
ticking of a clock, an arid ideal, a tasteless stimu- 
lant in the boy's life. 

But Hermiston was not all of one piece. He 
was, besides, a mighty toper; he could sit at wine 
until the day dawned, and pass directly from the 
table to the Bench with a steady hand and a 
clear head. Beyond the third bottle, he showed 
the plebeian in a larger print ; the low, gross ac- 
cent, the low, foul mirth, grew broader and com- 
moner; he became less formidable, and infinitely 
more 'disgusting. Now, the boy had inherited 
from Jean Rutherford a shivering delicacy, un- 
equally mated with potential violence. In the 

239 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

playing-fields, and amongst his own companions, 
he repaid a coarse expression with a blow; at 
his father's table (when the time came for him 
to join these revels) he turned pale and sickened 
in silence. Of all the guests whom he there en- 
countered, he had toleration for only one: David 
Keith Carnegie, Lord Glenalmond. Lord Glen- 
almond was tall and emaciated, with long fea- 
tures and long delicate hands. He was often 
compared with the statue of Forbes of Culloden 
in the Parliament House; and his blue eye, at 
more than sixty, preserved some of the fire of 
youth. His exquisite disparity with any of his 
fellow-guests, his appearance as of an artist and 
an artistocrat stranded in rude company, riveted 
the boy's attention; and as curiosity and inter- 
est are the things in the world that are the most 
immediately and certainly rewarded, Lord Glen- 
almond was attracted to the boy. 

"And so this is your son, Hermiston?" he 
asked, laying his hand on Archie's shoulder. 
"He's getting a big lad." 

"Hout!" said the gracious father, "just his 
mother over again daurna say boo to a goose!" 

But the stranger retained the boy, talked to 
him, drew him out, found in him a taste for let- 
ters, and a fine, ardent, modest, youthful soul; 
and encouraged him to be a visitor on Sunday 
evenings in his bare, cold, lonely dining-room, 
where he sat and read in the isolation of a bache- 
lor grown old in refinement. The beautiful 

240 



FATHER AND SON 

gentleness and grace of the old Judge, and the 
delicacy of his person, thoughts, and language, 
spoke to Archie's heart in its own tongue. He 
conceived the ambition to be such another; and, 
when the day came for him to choose a profes- 
sion, it was in emulation of Lord Glenalmond, 
not of Lord Hermiston, that he chose the Bar. 
Hermiston looked on at this friendship with some 
secret pride, but openly with the intolerance of 
scorn. He scarce lost an opportunity to put 
them down with a rough jape; and, to say truth, 
it was not difficult, for they were neither of them 
quick. He had a word of contempt for the whole 
crowd of poets, painters, fiddlers, and their ad- 
mirers, the bastard race of amateurs, which was 
continually on his lips. "Signer Feedle-eerie!" 
he would say. "Oh, for Goad's sake, no more 
of the Signer!" 

"You and my father are great friends, are 
you not?" asked Archie once. 

" There is no man that I more respect, Archie," 
replied Lord Glenalmond. "He is two things of 
price. He is a great lawyer, and he is upright 
as the day." 

"You and he are so different," said the boy, 
his eyes dwelling on those of his old friend, like 
a lover's on his mistress's. 

"Indeed so," replied the Judge; "very differ- 
ent. And so I fear are you and he. Yet I 
would like it very ill if my young friend were to 
misjudge his father. He has all the Roman vir- 

241 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

tues: Cato and Brutus were such; I think a son's 
heart might well be proud of such an ancestry 
of one." 

"And I would sooner he were a plaided herd," 
cried Archie, with sudden bitterness. 

"And that is neither very wise, nor I believe 
entirely true," returned Glenalmond. "Before 
you are done you will find some of these ex- 
pressions rise on you like a remorse. They are 
merely literary and decorative; they do not 
aptly express your thought, nor is your thought 
clearly apprehended, and no doubt your father 
(if he were here) would say 'Signor Feedle- 
eerie!'" 

With the infinitely delicate sense of youth, 
Archie avoided the subject from that hour. It 
was perhaps a pity. Had he but talked talked 
freely let himself gush out in words (the way 
youth loves to do and should), there might have 
been no tale to write upon the Weirs of Hermis- 
ton. But the shadow of a threat of ridicule 
sufficed ; in the slight tartness of these words he 
read a prohibition; and it is likely that Glenal- 
mond meant it so. 

Besides the veteran, the boy was without con- 
fidant or friend. Serious and eager, he came 
through school and college, and moved among a 
crowd of the indifferent, in the seclusion of his 
shyness. He grew up handsome, with an open, 
speaking countenance, with graceful, youthful, 
ways; he was clever, he took prizes, he shone in 

242 



FATHER AND SON 

the Speculative Society. 1 It should seem he 
must become the centre of a crowd of friends; 
but something that was in part the delicacy of 
his mother, in part the austerity of his father, 
held him aloof from all. It is a fact, and a 
strange one, that among his contemporaries Her- 
miston's son was thought to be a chip of the old 
block. ' ' You're a friend of Archie Weir's? ' ' said 
one to Frank Innes; and Innes replied, with his 
usual flippancy and more than his usual insight : 
"I know Weir, but I never met Archie." No 
one had met Archie, a malady most incident to 
only sons. He flew his private signal, and none 
heeded it ; it seemed he was abroad in a world 
from which the very hope of intimacy was ban- 
ished; and he looked round about him on the 
concourse of his fellow-students, and forward to 
the trivial days and acquaintances that were to 
come, without hope or interest. 

As time went on, the tough and rough old 
sinner felt himself drawn to the son of his loins 
and sole continuator of his new family, with 
softnesses of sentiment that he could hardly 
credit and was wholly impotent to express. With 
a face, voice, and manner trained through forty 
years to terrify and repel, Rhadamanthus may 
be great, but he will scarce be engaging. It is a 
fact that he tried to propitiate Archie, but a fact 
that cannot be too lightly taken; the attempt 

X A famous debating society of the students of Edinburgh Uni- 
versity. 

243 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

was so unconspicuously made, the failure so 
stoically supported. Sympathy is not due to 
these steadfast iron natures. If he failed to gain 
his son's friendship, or even his son's toleration, 
on he went up the great, bare staircase of his 
duty, uncheered and undepressed. There might 
have been more pleasure in his relations with 
Archie, so much he may have recognised at mo- 
ments; but pleasure was a by-product of the 
singular chemistry of life, which only fools ex- 
pected. 

An idea of Archie's attitude, since we are all 
grown up and have forgotten the days of our 
youth, it is more difficult to convey. He made 
no attempt whatsoever to understand the man 
with whom he dined and breakfasted. Parsi- 
mony of pain, glut of pleasure, these are the 
two alternating ends of youth; and Archie was 
of the parsimonious. The wind blew cold out 
of a certain quarter he turned his back upon 
it; stayed as little as was possible in his father's 
presence; and when there, averted his eyes as 
much as was decent from his father's face. The 
lamp shone for many hundred days upon these 
two at table my lord ruddy, gloomy, and un- 
reverent; Archie with a potential brightness that 
was always dimmed and veiled in that society; 
and there were not, perhaps, in Christendom 
two men more radically strangers. The father, 
with a grand simplicity, either spoke of what in- 
terested himself, or maintained an unaffected 

244 



FATHER AND SON 

silence. The son turned in his head for some 
topic that should be quite safe, that would spare 
him fresh evidences either of my lord's inherent 
grossness or of the innocence of his inhumanity; 
treading gingerly the ways of intercourse, like a 
lady gathering up her skirts in a by-path. If 
he made a mistake, and my lord began to abound 
in matter of offence, Archie drew himself up, his 
brow grew dark, his share of the talk expired; 
but my lord would faithfully and cheerfully 
continue to pour out the worst of himself before 
his silent and offended son. 

" Well, it's a poor hert that never rejoices," he 
would say, at the conclusion of such a nightmare 
interview. "But I must get to my plew-stilts." 
And he would seclude himself as usual in the 
back room, and Archie go forth into the night 
and the city, quivering with animosity and scorn. 



245 



CHAPTER III 

IN THE MATTER OF THE HANGING 
OF DUNCAN JOPP 

IT chanced in the year 1813 that Archie strayed 
one day into the Judiciary Court. The 
macer made room for the son of the presiding 
judge. In the dock, the centre of men's eyes, 
there stood a whey-coloured, misbegotten caitiff, 
Duncan Jopp, on trial for his life. His story, as 
it was raked out before him in that public scene, 
was one of disgrace and vice and cowardice, the 
very nakedness of crime ; and the creature heard 
and it seemed at times as though he understood 
as if at times he forgot the horror of the place 
he stood in, and remembered the shame of what 
had brought him there. He kept his head bowed 
and his hands clutched upon the rail; his hair 
dropped in his eyes and at times he flung it back; 
and now he glanced about the audience in a sud- 
den fellness of terror, and now looked in the face 
of his judge and gulped. There was pinned 
about his throat a piece of dingy flannel; and this 
it was perhaps that turned the scale in Archie's 
mind between disgust and pity. The creature 

246 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

stood in a vanishing point; yet a little while, 
and he was still a man, and had eyes and appre- 
hension; yet a little longer, and with a last sordid 
piece of pageantry, he would cease to be. And 
here, in the meantime, with a trait of human 
nature that caught at the beholder's breath, he 
was tending a sore throat. 

Over against him, my Lord Hermiston oc- 
cupied the bench in the red robes of criminal 
jurisdiction, his face framed in the white wig. 
Honest all through, he did not affect the virtue 
of impartiality; this was no case for refinement; 
there was a man to be hanged, he would have 
said, and he was hanging him. Nor was it pos- 
sible to see his lordship, and acquit him of gusto 
in the task. It was plain he gloried in the exer- 
cise of his trained faculties, in the clear sight 
which pierced at once into the joint of fact, in 
the rude, unvarnished jibes with which he de- 
molished every figment of defence. He took his 
ease and jested, unbending in that solemn place 
with some of the freedom of the tavern, and the 
rag of man with the flannel round his neck was 
hunted gallowsward with jeers. 

Duncan had a mistress, scarce less forlorn and 
greatly older than himself, who came up, whim- 
pering and curtseying, to add the weight of her 
betrayal. My lord gave her the oath in his most 
roaring voice and added an intolerant warning. 

" Mind what ye say now, Janet," said he. " I 
have an e'e upon ye; I'm ill to jest with." 

247 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Presently, after she was tremblingly embarked 
on her story, "And what made ye do this, ye 
auld runt?" the Court interposed. "Do ye 
mean to tell me ye was the panel's mistress?" 

" If you please, ma loard," whined the female. 

"Godsake! ye made a bonny couple," ob- 
served his lordship ; and there was something so 
formidable and ferocious in his scorn that not 
even the galleries thought to laugh. 

The summing up contained some jewels. 

"These two peetiable creatures seem to have 
made up thegither, it's not for us to explain 
why." "The panel, who (whatever else he may 
be) appears to be equally ill set-out in mind and 
boady." "Neither the panel nor yet the old 
wife appears to have had so much common sense 
as even to tell a lie when it was necessary." 
And in the course of sentencing, my lord had this 
obiter dictum: "I have been the means, under 
God, of haanging a great number, but never just 
such a disjaskit rascal as yourself." The words 
were strong in themselves: the light and heat and 
detonation of their delivery, and the savage 
pleasure of the speaker in his task, made them 
tingle in the ears. 

When all was over, Archie came forth again 
into a changed world. Had there been the least 
redeeming greatness in the crime, any obscurity, 
any dubiety, perhaps he might have understood. 
But the culprit stood, with his sore throat, in 
the sweat of his mortal agony, without defence 

248 



or excuse; a thing to cover up with blushes; a 
being so much sunk beneath the zones of sym- 
pathy that pity might seem harmless. And the 
judge had pursued him with a monstrous, relish- 
ing gaiety, horrible to be conceived, a trait for 
nightmares. It is one thing to spear a tiger, 
another to crush a toad ; there are aesthetics even 
of the slaughter-house; and the loathsomeness 
of Duncan Jopp enveloped and infected the im- 
age of his judge. 

Archie passed by his friends in the High Street 
with incoherent words and gestures. He saw 
Holyrood in a dream, remembrance of its ro- 
mance awoke in him and faded; he had a vision 
of the old radiant stories, of Queen Mary and 
Prince Charlie, of the hooded stag, of the splen- 
dour and crime, the velvet and bright iron of the 
past ; and dismissed them with a cry of pain. He 
lay and moaned in the Hunter's Bog, and the 
heavens were dark above him and the grass of 
the field an offence. "This is my father," he 
said. " I draw my life from him; the flesh upon 
my bones is his, the bread I am fed with is the 
wages of these horrors. ' ' He recalled his mother, 
and ground his forehead in the earth. He thought 
of flight, and where was he to flee to? of other 
lives, but was there any life worth living in this 
den of savage and jeering animals? 

The interval before the execution was like a 
violent dream. He met his father; he would not 
look at him, he could not speak to him. It 

249 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

seemed there was no living creature but must 
have been swift to recognise that imminent 
animosity, but the hide of the Lord Justice- 
Clerk remained impenetrable. Had my lord been 
talkative, the truce could never have subsisted ; 
but he was by fortune in one of his humours 
of sour silence; and under the very guns of his 
broadside Archie nursed the enthusiasm of re- 
bellion. It seemed to him, from the top of his 
nineteen years' experience, as if he were marked 
at birth to be the perpetrator of some signal ac- 
tion, to set back fallen Mercy, to overthrow the 
usurping devil that sat, horned and hoofed, on 
her throne. Seductive Jacobin figments, which 
he had often refuted at the Speculative, swam 
up in his mind and startled him as with voices; 
and he seemed to himself to walk accompanied 
by an almost tangible presence of new beliefs 
and duties. 

On the named morning he was at the place 
of execution. He saw the fleering rabble, the 
flinching wretch produced. He looked on for 
a while at a certain parody of devotion, which 
seemed to strip the wretch of his last claim to 
manhood. Then followed the brutal instant of 
extinction, and the paltry dangling of the re- 
mains like a broken jumping-jack. He had been 
prepared for something terrible, not for this 
tragic meanness. He stood a moment silent, 
and then "I denounce this God-defying mur- 
der," he shouted; and his father, if he must have 

250 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

disclaimed the sentiment, might have owned the 
stentorian voice with which it was uttered. 

Frank Innes dragged him from the spot. The 
two handsome lads followed the same course of 
study and recreation, and felt a certain mutual 
attraction, founded mainly on good looks. It 
had never gone deep; Frank was by nature a 
thin, jeering creature, not truly susceptible 
whether of feeling or inspiring friendship; and 
the relation between the pair was altogether on 
the outside, a thing of common knowledge and 
the pleasantries that spring from a common ac- 
quaintance. The more credit to Frank that he 
was appalled by Archie's outburst, and at least 
conceived the design of keeping him in sight, and, 
if possible, in hand, for the day. But Archie, 
who had just defied was it God or Satan? 
would not listen to the word of a college com- 
panion. 

"I will not go with you," he said. "I do not 
desire your company, sir; I would be alone." 

"Here, Weir, man, don't be absurd," said 
Innes, keeping a tight hold upon his sleeve. "I 
will not let you go until I know what you mean 
to do with yourself; it's no use brandishing that 
staff." For indeed at that moment Archie had 
made a sudden perhaps a warlike movement. 
"This has been the most insane affair; you know 
it has. You know very well that I'm playing 
the good Samaritan. All I wish is to keep you 
quiet." 

251 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

"If quietness is what you wish, Mr. Innes," 
said Archie, "and you will promise to leave me 
entirely to myself, I will tell you so much, that 
I am going to walk in the country and admire 
the beauties of nature." 

"Honour bright?" asked Frank. 

"I am not in the habit of lying, Mr. Innes," 
retorted Archie. " I have the honour of wishing 
you good-day." 

"You won't forget the Spec.?" asked Innes. 

"The Spec.?" said Archie. "Oh no, I won't 
forget the Spec." 

And the one young man carried his tortured 
spirit forth of the city and all the day long, by 
one road and another, in an endless pilgrimage 
of misery; while the other hastened smilingly to 
spread the news of Weir's access of insanity, and 
to drum up for that night a full attendance at 
the Speculative, where further eccentric develop- 
ments might certainly be looked for. I doubt 
if Innes had the least belief in his prediction: I 
think it flowed rather from a wish to make the 
story as good and the scandal as great as possi- 
ble; not from any ill-will to Archie from the 
mere pleasure of beholding interested faces. 
But for all that his words were prophetic. Archie 
did not forget the Spec. ; he put in an appearance 
there at the due time, and, before the evening 
was over, had dealt a memorable shock to his 
companions. It chanced he was the president 
of the night. He sat in the same room where 

252 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

the Society still meets only the portraits were 
not there; the men who afterwards sat for them 
were then but beginning their career. The same 
lustre of many tapers shed its light over the meet- 
ing; the same chair, perhaps, supported him that 
so many of us have sat in since. At times he 
seemed to forget the business of the evening, but 
even in these periods he sat with a great air of 
energy and determination. At times he med- 
dled bitterly and launched with defiance those 
fines which are the precious and rarely used 
artillery of the president. He little thought, 
as he did so, how he resembled his father, but his 
friends remarked upon it, chuckling. So far, in 
his high place above his fellow-students, he 
seemed set beyond the possibility of any scandal; 
but his mind was made up he was determined 
to fulfil the sphere of his offence. He signed to 
Innes (whom he had just fined, and who just 
impeached his ruling) to succeed him in the chair, 
stepped down from the platform, and took his 
place by the chimney-piece, the shine of many 
wax tapers from above illuminating his pale face, 
the glow of the great red fire relieving from be- 
hind his slim figure. He had to propose, as an 
amendment to the next subject in the case-book, 
"Whether capital punishment be consistent with 
God's will or man's policy?" 

A breath of embarrassment, of something like 
alarm, passed round the room, so daring did these 
words appear upon the lips of Hermiston's only 

253 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

son. But the amendment was not seconded ; the 
previous question was promptly moved and 
unanimously voted, and the momentary scandal 
smuggled by. Innes triumphed in the fulfil- 
ment of his prophecy. He and Archie were now 
become the heroes of the night; but whereas 
every one crowded about Innes, when the meeting 
broke up, but one of all his companions came to 
speak to Archie. 

"Weir, man! that was an extraordinary raid 
of yours!" observed this courageous member, 
taking him confidentially by the arm as they 
went out. 

"I don't think it a raid," said Archie grimly. 
" More like a war. I saw that poor brute hanged 
this morning, and my gorge rises at it yet." 

"Hut-tut!" returned his companion, and, 
dropping his arm like something hot, he sought 
the less tense society of others. 

Archie found himself alone. The last of the 
faithful or was it only the boldest of the curi- 
ous? had fled. He watched the black huddle 
of his fellow-students draw off down and up the 
street, in whispering or boisterous gangs. And 
the isolation of the moment weighed upon him 
like an omen and an emblem of his destiny in 
life. Bred up in unbroken fear himself, among 
trembling servants, and in a house which (at the 
least ruffle in the master's voice) shuddered into 
silence, he saw himself on the brink of the red 
valley of war, and measured the danger and 

254 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

length of it with awe. He made a detour in the 
glimmer and shadow of the streets, came into 
the back stable lane, and watched for a long 
while the light burn steady in the Judge's room. 
The longer he gazed upon that illuminated 
window-blind, the more blank became the pic- 
ture of the man who sat behind it, endlessly 
turning over sheets of process, pausing to sip a 
glass of port, or rising and passing heavily about 
his book-lined walls to verify some reference. 
He could not combine the brutal judge and the 
industrious, dispassionate student; the connect- 
ing link escaped him; from such a dual nature, 
it was impossible he should predict behaviour; 
and he asked himself if he had done well to 
plunge into a business of which the end could not 
be foreseen ; and presently after, with a sickening 
decline of confidence, if he had done loyally to 
strike his father. For he had struck him defied 
him twice over and before a cloud of witnesses 
struck him a public buffet before crowds. Who 
had called him to judge his father in these pre- 
carious and high questions? The office was 
usurped. It might have become a stranger; in a 
son there was no blinking it in a son, it was 
disloyal. And now, between these two natures 
so antipathetic, so hateful to each other, there 
was depending an unpardonable affront : and the 
providence of God alone might foresee the man- 
ner in which it would be resented by Lord Her- 
miston. 

255 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

These misgivings tortured him all night and 
arose with him in the winter's morning; they 
followed him from class to class, they made him 
shrinkingly sensitive to every shade of manner 
in his companions, they sounded in his ears 
through the current voice of the professor; and 
he brought them home with him at night un- 
abated and indeed increased. The cause of this 
increase lay in a chance encounter with the cele- 
brated Dr. Gregory. Archie stood looking vague- 
ly in the lighted window of a book shop, trying 
to nerve himself for the approaching ordeal. My 
lord and he had met and parted in the morning 
as they had now done for long, with scarcely the 
ordinary civilities of life ; and it was plain to the 
son that nothing had yet reached the father's 
ears. Indeed, when he recalled the awful coun- 
tenance of my lord, a timid hope sprang up in 
him that perhaps there would be found no one 
bold enough to carry tales. If this were so, he 
asked himself, would he begin again? and he 
found no answer. It was at this moment that 
a hand was laid upon his arm, and a voice said 
in his ear, "My dear Mr. Archie, you had better 
come and see me." 

He started, turned around, and found himself 
face to face with Dr. Gregory. "And why should 
I come to see you?" he asked, with the defiance 
of the miserable. 

"Because you are looking exceeding ill," said 
the doctor, "and you very evidently want look- 

256 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

ing after, my young friend. Good folk are 
scarce, you know; and it is not every one that 
would be quite so much missed as yourself. It 
is not every one that Hermiston would miss." 

And with a nod and smile, the doctor passed on. 

A moment after, Archie was in pursuit, and 
had in turn, but more roughly, seized him by the 
arm. 

"What do you mean? what did you mean by 
saying that? What makes you think that Ker- 
mis my father would have missed me?" 

The doctor turned about and looked him all 
over with a clinical eye. A far more stupid man 
than Dr. Gregory might have guessed the truth; 
but ninety-nine out of a hundred, even if they 
had been equally inclined to kindness, would 
have blundered by some touch of charitable ex- 
aggeration. The doctor was better inspired. He 
knew the father well; in that white face of intel- 
ligence and suffering, he divined something of 
the son; and he told, without apology or adorn- 
ment, the plain truth. 

"When you had the measles, Mr. Archibald, 
you had them gey and ill ; and I thought you were 
going to slip between my fingers," he said. 
"Well, your father was anxious. How did I 
know it? says you. Simply because I am a 
trained observer. The sign that I saw him make 
ten thousand would have missed ; and perhaps 
perhaps, I say, because he's a hard man to judge 
of but perhaps he never made another. A 

257 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

strange thing to consider! It was this. One 
day I came to him: 'Hermiston,' said I, 'there's 
a change.' He never said a word, just glowered 
at me (if ye'll pardon the phrase) like a wild 
beast. 'A change for the better,' said I. And 
I distinctly heard him take his breath." 

The doctor left no opportunity for anti-climax; 
nodding his cocked hat (a piece of antiquity to 
which he clung) and repeating "Distinctly" with 
raised eyebrows, he took his departure, and left 
Archie speechless in the street. 

The anecdote might be called infinitely little, 
and yet its meaning for Archie was immense. "I 
did not know the old man had so much blood in 
him." He had never dreamed this sire of his, 
this aboriginal antique, this adamantine Adam, 
had even so much of a heart as to be moved in 
the least degree for another and that other 
himself, who had insulted him! With the gener- 
osity of youth, Archie was instantly under arms 
upon the other side: had instantly created a new 
image of Lord Hermiston, that of a man who was 
all iron without and all sensibility within. The 
mind of the vile jester, the tongue that had pur- 
sued Duncan Jopp with unmanly insults, the 
unbeloved countenance that he had known and 
feared for so long, were all forgotten; and he has- 
tened home, impatient to confess his misdeeds, 
impatient to throw himself on the mercy of this 
imaginary character. 

He was not to be long without a rude awaken- 

258 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

ing. It was in the gloaming when he drew near 
the doorstep of the lighted house, and was aware 
of the figure of his father approaching from the 
opposite side. Little daylight lingered; but on 
the door being opened, the strong yellow shine 
of the lamp gushed out upon the landing and 
shone full on Archie, as he stood, in the old- 
fashioned observance of respect, to yield pre- 
cedence. The Judge came without haste, step- 
ping stately and firm; his chin raised, his face 
(as he entered the lamplight) strongly illumined, 
his mouth set hard. There was never a wink of 
change in his expression ; without looking to the 
right or left, he mounted the stair, passed close 
to Archie, and entered the house. Instinctively, 
the boy, upon his first coming, had made a 
movement to meet him; instinctively, he re- 
coiled against the railing, as the old man swept 
by him in a pomp of indignation. Words were 
needless; he knew all perhaps more than all 
and the hour of judgment was at hand. 

It is possible that, in this sudden revulsion 
of hope and before these symptoms of impending 
danger, Archie might have fled. But not even 
that was left to him. My lord, after hanging 
up his cloak and hat, turned round in the lighted 
entry, and made him an imperative and silent 
gesture with his thumb, and with the strange in- 
stinct of obedience, Archie followed him into the 
house. 

All dinner time there reigned over the Judge's 
259 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

table a palpable silence, and as soon as the solids 
were despatched he rose to his feet. 

"M'Killop, tak' the wine into my room," said 
he; and then to his son: "Archie, you and me 
has to have a talk." 

It was at this sickening moment that Archie's 
courage, for the first and last time, entirely de- 
serted him. " I have an appointment," said he. 
"It'll have to be broken, then," said Hermis- 
ton, and led the way into his study. 

The lamp was shaded, the fire trimmed to 
a nicety, the table covered deep with orderly 
documents, the backs of law books made a frame 
upon all sides that was only broken by the win- 
dow and the doors. 

For a moment Hermiston warmed his hands 
at the fire, presenting his back to Archie; then 
suddenly disclosed on him the terrors of the 
Hanging Face. 

"What's this I hear of ye!" he asked.^ 
There was no answer possible to Archie. 
"I'll have to tell ye, then," pursued Hermis- 
ton. "It seems ye've been skirling against the 
father that begot ye, and one of His Maijesty's 
Judges in this land; and that in the public street, 
and while an order of the Court was being exe- 
cutit. Forbye which, it would appear that 
ye've been airing your opeenions hi a Coallege 
Debatin' Society," he paused a moment: and, 
then, with extraordinary bitterness, added: "Ye 
damned eediot." 

260 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

"I had meant to tell you," stammered Archie. 
"I see you are well informed." 

"Muckle obleeged to ye," said his lordship, 
and took his usual seat. "And so you disap- 
prove of Caapital Punishment? " he added. 

"I am sorry, sir, I do," said Archie. 

"I am sorry, too," said his lordship. "And 
now, if you please, we shall approach this busi- 
ness with a little more parteecularity. I hear 
that at the hanging of Duncan Jopp and, 
man! ye had a fine client there in the mid- 
dle of all the riffraff of the ceety, ye thought 
fit to cry out, 'This is a damned murder, and 
my gorge rises at the man that haangit 
him.'" 

"No, sir, these were not my words," cried 
Archie. 

"What were ye'r words, thenP" asked the 
Judge. 

" I believe I said, ' I denounce it as a murder I ' ' 
said the son, " I beg your pardon a God-defying 
murder. I have no wish to conceal the truth," 
he added, and looked his father for a moment in 
the face. 

"God, it would only need that of it next!" 
cried Hermiston. "There was nothing about 
your gorge rising, then?" 

"That was afterwards, my lord, as I was leav- 
ing the Speculative. I said I had been to see 
the miserable creature hanged, and my gorge 
rose at it." 

261 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

"Did ye, though?" said Hermiston. "And I 
suppose ye knew who haangit him?" 

"I was present at the trial, I ought to tell you 
that, I ought to explain. I ask your pardon be- 
forehand for any expression that may seem 
undutiful. The position in which I stand is 
wretched," said the unhappy hero, now fairly 
face to face with the business he had chosen. 
"I have been reading some of your cases. I was 
present while Jopp was tried. It was a hideous 
business. Father, it was a hideous thing! Grant 
he was vile, why should you hunt him with a vile- 
ness equal to his own? It was done with glee 
that is the word you did it with glee, and I 
looked on, God help me! with horror." 

"You're a young gentleman that doesna ap- 
prove of Caapital Punishment," said Hermiston. 
" Wed, I'm an auld man that does. I was glad 
to get Jopp haangit, and what for would I pre- 
tend I wasna? You're all for honesty, it seems; 
you couldna even steik your mouth on the pub- 
lic street. What for should I steik mines upon 
the bench, the King's officer, bearing the sword, 
a dreid to evil-doers, as I was from the beginning, 
and as I will be to the end! Mair than enough 
of it! Heedious! I never gave twa thoughts to 
heediousness, I have no call to be bonny. I'm a 
man that gets through with my day's business, 
and let that suffice." 

The ring of sarcasm had died out of his voice 
as he went on; the plain words became in- 

262 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

vested with some of the dignity of the Justice- 
seat. 

"It would be telling you if you could say as 
much," the speaker resumed. " But ye cannot. 
"Ye've been reading some of my cases, ye say. 
But it was not for the law in them, it was to spy 
out your faither's nakedness, a fine employment 
in a son. You're splairging; you're running at 
lairge in life like a wild nowt. It's impossible 
you should think any longer of coming to the 
Bar. You're not fit for it; no splairger is. And 
another thing: son of mines or no son of mines, 
you have flung fylement in public on one of the 
Senators of the Coallege of Justice, and I would 
make it my business to see that ye were never 
admitted there yourself. There is a kind of a 
decency to be observit. Then comes the next 
of it what am I to do with ye nextP Ye'll have 
to find some kind of a trade, for I'll never sup- 
port ye in idleset. What do ye fancy ye'll be 
fit for? The pulpit? Na, they could never get 
diveenity into that bloackhead. Him that the 
law of man whammles is no' likely to do muckle 
better by the law of God. What would ye make 
of hell? Wouldna your gorge rise at that? Na, 
there's no room for splairgers under the fower 
quarters of John Calvin. What else is there? 
Speak up. Have ye got nothing of your own?" 

"Father, let me go to the Peninsula," said 
Archie. "That's all I'm fit for to fight." 

"All? quo' he!" returned the Judge. "And 
263 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

it would be enough too, if I thought it. But 
I'll never trust ye so near the French, you that's 
so Frenchifeed." 

"You do me injustice there, sir," said Archie. 
" I am loyal; I will not boast; but any interest I 
may have ever felt in the French " 

"Have ye been so loyal to me?" interrupted 
his father. 

There came no reply. 

" I think not," continued Hermiston. "And I 
would send no man to be a servant to the King, 
God bless him! that has proved such a shauchling 
son to his own faither. You can splairge here 
on Edinburgh street, and where's the hairm? It 
doesna play buff on me! And if there were 
twenty thousand eediots like yourself, sorrow a 
Duncan Jopp would hang the fewer. But there's 
no splairging possible in a camp ; and if you were 
to go to it, you would find out for yourself 
whether Lord Well'n'ton approves of caapital 
punishment or not. You a sodger!" he cried, 
with a sudden burst of scorn. ; 'Ye auld wife, 
the sodger s would bray at ye like cuddies!" 

As at the drawing of a curtain, Archie was 
aware of some illogicality in his position, and 
stood abashed. He had a strong impression, be- 
sides, of the essential valour of the old gentleman 
before him, how conveyed it would be hard to 
say. 

"Well, have ye no other proposeetion? " said 
my lord again. 

264 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

"You have taken this so calmly, sir, that I 
cannot but stand ashamed," began Archie. 

"I'm nearer voamiting, though, than you 
would fancy," said my lord. 

The blood rose to Archie's brow. 

"I beg your pardon, I should have said that 
you had accepted my affront. ... I admit 
it was an affront; I did not think to apologise, 
but I do, I ask your pardon; it will not be so 
again, I pass you my word of honour. ... I 
should have said that I admired your magnanim- 
ity with this offender," Archie concluded with 
a gulp. 

" I have no other son, ye see," said Hermiston. 
"A bonny one I have gotten! But I must just 
do the best I can wi' him, and what am I to do? 
If ye had been younger, I would have wheepit 
ye for this rideeculous exhibeetion. The way it 
is, I have just to grin and bear. But one thing 
is to be clearly understood. As a faither, I 
must grin and bear it ; but if I had been the Lord 
Advocate instead of the Lord Justice-Clerk, son 
or no son, Mr. Erchibald Weir would have been 
in a jyle the night." 

Archie was now dominated. Lord Hermiston 
was coarse and cruel; and yet the son was aware 
of a bloomless nobility, an ungracious abnegation 
of the man's self in the man's office. At every 
word, this sense of the greatness of Lord Her- 
miston' s spirit struck more home ; and along with 
it that of his own impotence, who had struck 

265 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

and perhaps basely struck at his own father, 
and not reached so far as to have even nettled 
him. 

"I place myself in your hands without re- 
serve," he said. 

"That's the first sensible word I've had of ye 
the night," said Hermiston. " I can tell ye, that 
would have been the end of it, the one way or the 
other; but it's better ye should come there your- 
self, than what I would have had to hirstle ye. 
Weel, by my way of it and my way is the best 
there's just the one thing it's possible that ye 
might be with decency, and that's a laird. Ye'll 
be out of hairm's way at the least of it. If ye 
have to rowt, ye can rowt amang the kye; and 
the maist feck of the caapital punishment ye're 
like to come across'll be guddling trouts. Now, 
I'm for no idle lairdies; every man has to work, 
if it's only at peddling ballants; to work, or to 
be wheepit, or to be haangit. If I set ye down 
at Hermiston, I'll have to see you work that 
place the way it has never been workit yet; ye 
must ken about the sheep like a herd; ye must 
be my grieve there, and I'll see that I gain by ye. 
Is that understood?" 

"I will do my best," said Archie. 

"Well, then, I'll send Kirstie word the morn, 
and ye can go yourself the day after," said Her- 
miston. "And just try to be less of an eediot!" 
he concluded, with a freezing smile, and turned 
immediately to the papers on his desk. 

266 



CHAPTER IV 

OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 



Ek.TE the same night, after a disordered 
walk, Archie was admitted into Lord Glen- 
almond's dining-room where he sat, with a book 
upon his knee, beside three frugal coals of fire. 
In his robes upon the bench, Glenalmond had a 
certain air of burliness: plucked of these, it was a 
maypole of a man that rose unsteadily from his 
chair to give his visitor welcome. Archie had 
suffered much in the last days, he had suffered 
again that evening; his face was white and 
drawn, his eyes wild and dark. But Lord Glen- 
almond greeted, him without the least mark of 
surprise or curiosity. 

"Come in, come in," said he. "Come in and 
take a seat. Carstairs" (to his servant), "make 
up the fire, and then you can bring a bit of 
supper," and again to Archie, with a very trivial 
accent: "I was half expecting you," he added. 

"No supper," said Archie. "It is impossi- 
ble that I should eat." 

" Not impossible," said the tall old man, laying 
his hand upon his shoulder, " and, if you will be- 
lieve me, necessary." 

267 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

"You know what brings me?" said Archie, as 
soon as the servant had left the room. 

"I have a guess, I have a guess," replied Glen- 
almond. "We will talk of it presently when 
Carstairs has come and gone, and you have had 
a piece of my good Cheddar cheese and a pull at 
the porter tankard: not before." 

"It is impossible I should eat," repeated Ar- 
chie. 

"Tut, tut!" said Lord Glenalmond. "You 
have eaten nothing to-day, and, I venture to add, 
nothing yesterday. There is no case that may 
not be made worse; this may be a very disagree- 
able business, but if you were to fall sick and 
die, it would be still more so, and for all con- 
cerned for all concerned." 

"I see you must know all," said Archie. 
"Where did you hear it?" 

"In the mart of scandal, in the Parliament 
House," said Glenalmond. "It runs riot below 
among the bar and the public, but it sifts up to 
us upon the bench, and rumour has some of her 
voices even in the divisions." 

Carstairs returned at this moment, and rapidly 
laid out a little supper; during which Lord Glen- 
almond spoke at large and a little vaguely on in- 
different subjects, so that it might be rather said 
of him that he made a cheerful noise, than that 
he contributed to human conversation; and 
Archie sat upon the other side, not heeding him, 
brooding over his wrongs and errors. 

268 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

But so soon as the servant was gone, he broke 
forth again at once. "Who told my father? 
Who dared to tell him? Could it have been 
you?" 

"No, it was not me," said the Judge; "al- 
though to be quite frank with you, and after I 
had seen and warned you it might have been 
me. I believe it was Glenkindie." 

"That shrimp!" cried Archie. 

"As you say, that shrimp," returned my lord; 
" although really it is scarce a fitting mode of ex- 
pression for one of the Senators of the College of 
Justice. We were hearing the parties in a long, 
crucial case, before the fifteen; Creech was mov- 
ing at some length for an infeftment; when I 
saw Glenkindie lean forward to Hermiston with 
his hand over his mouth and make him a secret 
communication. No one could have guessed its 
nature from your father; from Glenkindie, yes, 
his malice sparked out of him a little grossly. 
But your father, no. A man of granite. The 
next moment he pounced upon Creech. 'Mr. 
Creech,' says he, 'I'll take a look of that sasine,' 
and for thirty minutes after," said Glenalmond, 
with a smile, "Messrs. Creech and Co. were 
fighting a pretty uphill battle, which resulted, I 
need hardly add, in their total rout. The case 
was dismissed. No, I doubt if ever I heard 
Hermiston better inspired. He was literally re- 
joicing in apicibus juris." 

Archie was able to endure no longer. He thrust 
269 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

his plate away and interrupted the deliberate 
and insignificant stream of talk. "Here," he 
said, " I have made a fool of myself, if I have not 
made something worse. Do you judge between 
us judge between a father and a son. I can 
speak to you; it is not like. . . . I will tell 
you what I feel and what I mean to do; and you 
shall be the judge," he repeated. 

"I decline jurisdiction," said Glenalmond with 
extreme seriousness. "But, my dear boy, if it 
will do you any good to talk, and if it will interest 
you at all to hear what I may choose to say when 
I have heard you, I am quite at your command. 
Let an old man say it, for once, and not need to 
blush: I love you like a son." 

There came a sudden sharp sound in Archie's 
throat. "Ay," he cried, "and there it is! Love! 
Like a son! And how do you think I love my 
father?" 

"Quietly, quietly," says my lord. 

"I will be very quiet," replied Archie. "And 
I will be baldly frank. I do not love my father; 
I wonder sometimes if I do not hate him. There's 
my shame; perhaps my sin; at least, and in the 
sight of God, not my fault. How was I to love 
him? He has never spoken to me, never smiled 
upon me; I do not think he ever touched me. 
You know the way he talks? You do not talk 
so, yet you can sit and hear him without shud- 
dering, and I cannot. My soul is sick when he 
begins with it ; I could smite him in the mouth. 

270 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

And all that's nothing. I was at the trial of this 
Jopp. You were not there, but you must have 
heard him often; the man's notorious for it, for 
being look at my position! he's my father and 
this is how I have to speak of him notorious for 
being a brute and cruel and a coward. Lord 
Glenalmond, I give you my word, when I came 
out of that Court, I longed to die the shame of 

it was beyond my strength: but I I " he 

rose from his seat and began to pace the room in 
a disorder. "Well, who am I? A boy, who have 
never been tried, have never done anything ex- 
cept this twopenny impotent folly with my 
father. But I tell you, my lord, and I know 
myself, I am at least that kind of a man or that 
kind of a boy, if you prefer it that I could die in 
torments rather than that any one should suffer 
as that scoundrel suffered. Well, and what have 
I done? I see it now. I have made a fool of 
myself, as I said in the beginning; and I have 
gone back, and asked my father's pardon, and 
placed myself wholly in his hands and he has 
sent me to Hermiston," with a wretched smile, 
"for life, I suppose and what can I say? he 
strikes me as having done quite right, and let 
me off better than I had deserved." 

"My poor, dear boy!" observed Glenalmond. 
"My poor dear and, if you will allow me to say 
so, very foolish boy! You are only discovering 
where you are; to one of your temperament, or 
of mine, a painful discovery. The world was not 

271 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

made for us; it was made for ten hundred mil- 
lions of men, all different from each other and 
from us ; there's no royal road there, we just have 
to sclamber and tumble. Don't think that I am 
at all disposed to be surprised; don't suppose 
that I ever think of blaming you; indeed I rather 
admire ! But there fall to be offered one or two 
observations on the case which occur to me and 
which (if you will listen to them dispassionately) 
may be the means of inducing you to view the 
matter more calmly. First of all, I cannot ac- 
quit you of a good deal of what is called intoler- 
ance. You seem to have been very much of- 
fended because your father talks a little scul- 
duddery after dinner, which it is perfectly licit 
for him to do, and which (although I am not 
very fond of it myself) appears to be entirely an 
affair of taste. Your father, I scarcely like to 
remind you, since it is so trite a commonplace, is 
older than yourself. At least, he is major and 
sui juris, and may please himself in the matter of 
his conversation. And, do you know, I wonder 
if he might not have as good an answer against 
you and me? We say we sometimes find him 
coarse, but I suspect he might retort that he 
finds us always dull. Perhaps a relevant excep- 
tion." 

He beamed on Archie, but no smile could be 
elicited. 

"And now," proceeded the Judge, "for 'Archi- 
bald on Capital Punishment.' This is a very 

272 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

plausible academic opinion; of course I do not 
and I cannot hold it ; but that's not to say that 
many able and excellent persons have not done 
so in the past. Possibly, in the past, also, I may 
have a little dipped myself in the same heresy. 
My third client, or possibly my fourth, was the 
means of a return in my opinions. I never saw 
the man I more believed in; I would have put my 
hand in the fire, I would have gone to the cross 
for him; and when it came to trial he was grad- 
ually pictured before me, by undeniable proba- 
tion, in the light of so gross, so cold-blooded, and 
so black-hearted a villain, that I had a mind to 
have cast my brief upon the table. I was then 
boiling against the man with even a more tropical 
temperature than I had been boiling for him. 
But I said to myself: ' No, you have taken up his 
case; and because you have changed your mind 
it must not be suffered to let drop. All that rich 
tide of eloquence that you prepared last night 
with so much enthusiasm is out of place, and yet 
you must not desert him, you must say some- 
thing.' So I said something, and I got him off. 
It made my reputation. But an experience of 
that kind is formative. A man must not bring 
his passions to the bar or to the bench." 

This story had slightly rekindled Archie's in- 
terest. "I could never deny," he began "I 
mean I can conceive that some men would be 
better dead. But who are we to know all the 
springs of God's unfortunate creatures? Who 

273 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

are we to trust ourselves where it seems that God 
himself must think twice before He treads, and 
to do it with delight? Yes, with delight. Tigris 
ut aspera." 

"Perhaps not a pleasant spectacle," said Glen- 
almond. "And yet, do you know, I think some- 
how a great one." 

"I've had a long talk with him to-night," said 
Archie. 

"I was supposing so," said Glenalmond. 

"And he struck me 1 cannot deny that he 

struck me as something very big," pursued the 
son. "Yes, he is big. He never spoke about 
himself; only about me. I suppose I admired 
him. The dreadful part " 

"Suppose we did not talk about that," inter- 
rupted Glenalmond. "You know it very well, 
it cannot in any way help that you should brood 
upon it, and I sometimes wonder whether you 
and I who are a pair of sentimentalists are 
quite good judges of plain men." 

"How do you mean?" asked Archie. 

"Fair judges, I mean," replied Glenalmond. 
"Can we be just to them? Do we not ask too 
much? There was a word of yours just now that 
impressed me a little when you asked me who 
we were to know all the springs of God's unfor- 
tunate creatures. You applied that, as I under- 
stood, to capital cases only. But does it I ask 
myself does it not apply all through? Is it any 
less difficult to judge of a good man or of a half- 

274 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

good man, than of the worst criminal at the bar? 
And may not each have relevant excuses?" 

"Ah, but we do not talk of punishing the good," 
cried Archie. 

"No, we do not talk of it," said Glenalmond. 
"But I think we do it. Your father, for in- 
stance." 

"You think I have punished him?" cried 
Archie. 

Lord Glenalmond bowed his head. 

"I think I have," said Archie. "And the 
worst is, I think he feels it! How much, who 
can tell, with such a being? But I think he 
does." 

"And I am sure of it," said Glenalmond. 

"Has he spoken to you, then?" cried Archie. 

"Oh, no," replied the Judge. 

"I tell you honestly," said Archie, "I want to 
make it up to him. I will go, I have already 
pledged myself to go, to Hermiston. That was 
to him. And now I pledge myself to you, in the 
sight of God, that I will close my mouth on 
capital punishment and all other subjects where 
our views may clash, for how long shall I say? 
when shall I have sense enough? ten years. Is 
that well?" 

"It is well," said my lord. 

"As far as it goes," said Archie. "It is enough 
as regards myself, it is to lay down enough of 
my conceit. But as regards him, whom I have 
publicly insulted? What am I to do to him? 

275 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

How do you pay attentions to a an Alp like 
that?" 

"Only in one way," replied Glenalmond. 
"Only by obedience, punctual, prompt, and scru- 
pulous." 

"And I promise that he shall have it," an- 
swered Archie. "I offer you my hand in pledge 
of it." 

"And I take your hand as a solemnity," re- 
plied the Judge. "God bless you, my dear, and 
enable you to keep your promise. God guide 
you in the true way, and spare your days, and 
preserve to you your honest heart." At that, 
he kissed the young man upon the forehead in a 
gracious, distant, antiquated way; and instantly 
launched, with a marked change of voice, into 
another subject. "And now, let us replenish 
the tankard; and I believe, if you will try my 
Cheddar again, you would find you had a better 
appetite. The Court has spoken, and the case 
is dismissed." 

"No, there is one thing I must say," cried 
Archie. "I must say it in justice to himself. I 
know I believe faithfully, slavishly, after our 
talk he will never ask me anything unjust. I 
am proud to feel it, that we have that much in 
common, I am proud to say it to you." 

The Judge, with shining eyes, raised his tank- 
ard. "And I think perhaps that we might per- 
mit ourselves a toast," said he. "I should like 
to propose the health of a man very different 

276 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

from me and very much my superior a man 
from whom I have often differed, who has often 
(in the trivial expression) rubbed me the wrong 
way, but whom I have never ceased to respect 
and, I may add, to be not a little afraid of. 
Shall I give you his name?" 

"The Lord Justice-Clerk, Lord Hermiston," 
said Archie, almost with gaiety; and the pair 
drank the toast deeply. 

It was not precisely easy to re-establish, after 
these emotional passages, the natural flow of 
conversation. But the Judge eked out what was 
wanting with kind looks, produced his snuff-box 
(which was very rarely seen) to fill in a pause, 
and at last, despairing of any further social 
success, was upon the point of getting down a 
book to read a favourite passage, when there 
came a rather startling summons at the front 
door, and Carstairs ushered in my Lord Glen- 
kindie, hot from a midnight supper. I am not 
aware that Glenkindie was ever a beautiful ob- 
ject, being short, and gross-bodied, and with an 
expression of sensuality comparable to a bear's. 
At that moment, coming in hissing from many 
potations, with a flushed countenance and 
blurred eyes, he was strikingly contrasted with 
the tall, pale, kingly figure of Glenalmond. A 
rush of confused thought came over Archie of 
shame that this was one of his father's elect 
friends; of pride, that at the least of it Hermiston 
could carry his liquor; and last of all, of rage, 

277 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

that he should have here under his eye the man 
that had betrayed him. And then that, too, 
passed away ; and he sat quiet, biding his oppor- 
tunity. 

The tipsy senator plunged at once into an ex- 
planation with Glenalmond. There was a point 
reserved yesterday, he had been able to make 
neither head nor tail of it, and seeing lights in 
the house, he had just dropped in for a glass of 
porter and at this point he became aware of the 
third person. Archie saw the cod's mouth and 
the blunt lips of Glenkindie gape at him for a 
moment, and the recognition twinkle in his eyes. 

"Who's this?" said he. "What? is this pos- 
sibly you, Don Quickshot? And how are ye? 
And how's your father? And what's all this we 
hear of you? It seems you're a most 'extraor- 
dinary leveller, by all tales. No king, no parlia- 
ments, and your gorge rises at the macers, worthy 
men! Hoot, too! Dear, dear me! Your father's 
son, too ! Most rideekulous I " 

Archie was on his feet, flushing a little at the 
reappearance of his unhappy figure of speech, 
but perfectly self-possessed. "My lord and 
you, Lord Glenalmond, my dear friend," he be- 
gan, "this is a happy chance for me, that I can 
make my confession and offer my apologies to 
two of you at once." 

"Ah, but I don't know about that. Confes- 
sion? It'll be judeecial, my young friend," cried 
the jocular Glenkindie. "And I'm afraid to 

278 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

listen to ye. Think if ye were to make me a 
coanvert!" 

"If you would allow me, my lord," returned 
Archie, "what I have to say is very serious to 
me; and be pleased to be humorous after I am 
gone." 

"Remember, I'll hear nothing against the 
macers!" put in the incorrigible Glenkindie. 

But Archie continued as though he had not 
spoken. ' ' I have played, both yesterday and to- 
day, a part for which I can only offer the excuse 
of youth. I was so unwise as to go to an execu- 
tion; it seems, I made a scene at the gallows; 
not content with which, I spoke the same night 
in a college society against capital punishment. 
This is the extent of what I have done, and in 
case you hear more alleged against me, I protest 
my innocence. I have expressed my regret al- 
ready to my father, who is so good as to pass my 
conduct over in a degree, and upon the condi- 
tion that I am to leave my law studies." . . . 



279 



CHAPTER V 

WINTER ON THE MOORS 

1. At Hermiston 

road to Hermiston runs for a great part 
J- of the way up the valley of a stream, a fa- 
vourite with anglers and with midges, full of falls 
and pools, and shaded by willows and natural 
woods of birch. Here and there, but at great 
distances, a byway branches off, and a gaunt 
farmhouse may be descried above in a fold of the 
hill; but the more part of the time, the road 
would be quite empty of passage and the hills of 
habitation. Hermiston parish is one of the least 
populous in Scotland ; and, by the time you came 
that length, you would scarce be surprised at the 
inimitable smallness of the kirk, a dwarfish, an- 
cient place seated for fifty, and standing in a 
green by the burn-side among two-score grave- 
stones. The manse close by, although no more 
than a cottage, is surrounded by the brightness 
of a flower-garden and the straw roofs of bees; 
and the whole colony, kirk and manse, garden 
and graveyard, finds harbourage in a grove of 
rowans, and is all the year round in a great 

280 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

silence broken only by the drone of the bees, the 
tinkle of the burn, and the bell on Sundays. A 
mile beyond the kirk the road leaves the valley 
by a precipitous ascent, and brings you a little 
after to the place of Hermiston, where it comes 
to an end in the back-yard before the coach- 
house. All beyond and about is the great field 
of the hills; the plover, the curlew, and the lark 
cry there; the wind blows as it blows in a ship's 
rigging, hard and cold and pure; and the hill-tops 
huddle one behind another like a herd of cattle 
into the sunset. 

The house was sixty years old, unsightly, com- 
fortable; a farmyard and a kitchen-garden on 
the left, with a fruit wall where little hard green 
pears came to their maturity about the end of 
October. 

The policy (as who should say the park) was 
of some extent, but very ill reclaimed; heather 
and moorfowl had crossed the boundary wall 
and spread and roosted within; and it would have 
tasked a landscape gardener to say where policy 
ended and unpolicied nature began. My lord 
had been led by the influence of Mr. Sheriff 
Scott into a considerable design of planting; many 
acres were accordingly set out with fir, and the 
little feathery besoms gave a false scale and lent 
a strange air of a toy-shop to the moors. A great, 
rooty sweetness of bogs was in the air, and at all 
seasons an infinite melancholy piping of hill birds. 
Standing so high and with so little shelter, it was 

281 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

a cold, exposed house, splashed by showers, 
drenched by continuous rains that made the 
gutters to spout, beaten upon and buffeted by 
all the winds of heaven; and the prospect would 
be often black with tempest, and often white 
with the snows of winter. But the house was 
wind and weather proof, the hearths were kept 
bright, and the rooms pleasant with live fires of 
peat; and Archie might sit of an evening and 
hear the squalls bugle on the moorland, and 
watch the fire prosper in the earthy fuel, and the 
smoke winding up the chimney, and drink deep 
of the pleasures of shelter. 

Solitary as the place was, Archie did not want 
neighbours. Every night, if he chose, he might 
go down to the manse and share a "brewst" of 
toddy with the minister a hare-brained ancient 
gentleman, long and light and still active, though 
his knees were loosened with age, and his voice 
broke continually in childish trebles and his lady 
wife, a heavy, comely dame, without a word to 
say for herself beyond good-even and good-day. 
Harum-scarum, clodpole young lairds of the 
neighbourhood paid him the compliment of a 
visit. Young Hay of Romanes rode down to 
call, on his crop-eared pony; young Pringle of 
Drumanno came up on his bony grey. Hay re- 
mained on the hospitable field, and must be car- 
ried to bed; Pringle got somehow to his saddle 
about 3 a. m., and (as Archie stood with the lamp 
on the upper doorstep) lurched, uttered a sense- 

282 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

less view halloa, and vanished out of the small 
circle of illumination like a wraith. Yet a 
minute or two longer the clatter of his break-neck 
flight was audible, then it was cut off by the inter- 
vening steepness of the hill; and again, a great 
while after, the renewed beating of phantom 
horse-hoofs, far in the valley of the Hermiston, 
showed that the horse at least, if not his rider, 
was still on the homeward way. 

There was a Tuesday club at the "Crosskeys" 
in Crossmichael, where the young bloods of the 
countryside congregated and drank deep on a 
percentage of the expense, so that he was left 
gainer who should have drunk the most. Archie 
had no great mind to his diversion, but he took 
it like a duty laid upon him, went with a decent 
regularity, did his manfullest with the liquor, 
held up his head in the local jests, and got home 
again and was able to put up his horse, to the 
admiration of Kirstie and the lass that helped 
her. He dined at Driffel, supped at Windielaws. 
He went to the New Year's ball at Huntsfield and 
was made welcome, and thereafter rode to hounds 
with my Lord Muirfell, upon whose name, as 
that of a legitimate Lord of Parliament, in a 
work so full of Lords of Session, my pen should 
pause reverently. Yet the same fate attended 
him here as in Edinburgh. The habit of solitude 
tends to perpetuate itself, and an austerity of 
which he was quite unconscious, and a pride 
which seemed arrogance and perhaps was chiefly 

283 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

shyness, discouraged and offended his new com- 
panions. Hay did not return more than twice, 
Pringle never at all, and there came a time when 
Archie even desisted from the Tuesday Club, and 
became in all things what he had had the name 
of almost from the first the Recluse of Hermis- 
ton. High-nosed Miss Pringle of Drumanno 
and high-stepping Miss Marshall of the Mains 
were understood to have had a difference of 
opinion about him the day after the ball he 
was none the wiser, he could not suppose himself 
to be remarked by these entrancing ladies. At 
the ball itself my Lord Muirf ell's daughter, the 
Lady Flora, spoke to him twice, and the second 
time with a touch of appeal, so that her colour 
rose and her voice trembled a little in his ear, 
like a passing grace in music. He stepped back 
with a heart on fire, coldly and not ungracefully 
excused himself, and a little after watched her 
dancing with young Drumanno of the empty 
laugh, and was harrowed at the sight, and raged 
to himself that this was a world in which it was 
given to Drumanrio to please, and to himself 
only to stand aside and envy. He seemed ex- 
cluded, as of right, from the favour of such 
society seemed to extinguish mirth wherever 
he came, and was quick to feel the wound, and 
desist, and retire into solitude. If he had but 
understood the figure he presented, and the im- 
pression he made on these bright eyes and tender 
hearts; if he had but guessed that the Recluse 

284 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

of Hermiston, young, graceful, well-spoken, but 
always cold, stirred the maidens of the county 
with the charm of Byronism when Byronism was 
new, it may be questioned whether his destiny 
might not even yet have been modified. It may 
be questioned, and I think it should be doubted. 
It was in his horoscope to be parsimonious of 
pain to himself, or of the chance of pain, even to 
the avoidance of any opportunity of pleasure; to 
have a Roman sense of duty, an instinctive aris- 
tocracy of manners and taste; to be the son of 
Adam Weir and Jean Rutherford. 

2. Kirstie 

Kirstie was now over fifty, and might have sat 
to a sculptor. Long of limb and still light of 
foot, deep-breasted, robust-loined, her golden 
hair not yet mingled with any trace of silver, the 
years had but caressed and embellished her. By 
the lines of a rich and vigorous maternity, she 
seemed destined to be the bride of heroes and the 
mother of their children; and behold, by the 
iniquity of fate, she had passed through her 
youth alone, and drew near to the confines of 
age, a childless woman. The tender ambitions 
that she had received at birth had been, by time 
and disappointment, diverted into a certain bar- 
ren zeal of industry and fury of interference. She 
carried her thwarted ardours into housework, she 
washed floors with her empty heart. If she could 
not win the love of one with love, she must domi- 

285 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

nate all by her temper. Hasty, wordy, and 
wrathful, she had a drawn quarrel with most of 
her neighbours, and with the others not much 
more than armed neutrality. The grieve's wife 
had been "sneisty"; the sister of the gardener, 
who kept house for him, had shown herself "up- 
sitten " ; and she wrote to Lord Hermiston about 
once a year demanding the discharge of the of- 
fenders, and justifying the demand by much 
wealth of detail. For it must not be supposed 
that the quarrel rested with the wife and did not 
take in the husband also or with the gardener's 
sister, and did not speedily include the gardener 
himself. As the upshot of all this petty quar- 
relling and intemperate speech, she was practi- 
cally excluded (like a lightkeeper on his tower) 
from the comforts of human association ; except 
with her own indoor drudge, who, being but a 
lassie and entirely at her mercy, must submit 
to the shifty weather of "the mistress's" moods 
without complaint, and be willing to take buffets 
or caresses according to the temper of the hour. 
To Kirstie, thus situate and in the Indian sum- 
mer of her heart, which was slow to submit to 
age, the gods sent this equivocal good thing of 
Archie's presence. She had known him in the 
cradle and paddled him when he misbehaved; 
and yet, as she had not so much as set eyes on 
him since he was eleven and had his last serious 
illness, the tall, slender, refined, and rather mel- 
ancholy young gentleman of twenty came upon 

286 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

her with the shock of a new acquaintance. He 
was "Young Hermiston," "the laird himsel'"; 
he had an air of distinctive superiority, a cold 
straight glance of his black eyes, that abashed 
the woman's tantrums in the beginning, and 
therefore the possibility of any quarrel was ex- 
cluded. He was new, and therefore immediately 
aroused her curiosity; he was reticent, and kept 
it awake. And lastly he was dark and she fair, 
and he was male and she female, the everlasting 
fountains of interest. 

Her feeling partook of the loyalty of a clans- 
woman, the hero-worship of a maiden aunt, and 
the idolatry due to a god. No matter what he 
had asked of her, ridiculous or tragic, she would 
have done it and joyed to do it. Her passion, 
for it was nothing less, entirely filled her. It was- 
a rich physical pleasure to make his bed or light 
his lamp for him when he was absent, to pull off 
his wet boots or wait on him at dinner when he 
returned. A young man who should have so 
doted on the idea, moral and physical, of any 
woman, might be properly described as being in 
love, head and heels, and would have behaved 
himself accordingly. But Kirstie though her 
heart leaped at his coming footsteps though, 
when he patted her shoulder, her face brightened 
for the day had not a hope or thought beyond 
the present moment and its perpetuation to the 
end of time. Till the end of time she would have 
had nothing altered, but still continue delighted- 

287 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

ly to serve her idol, and be repaid (say twice in 
the month) with a clap on the shoulder. 

I have said her heart leaped it is the accepted 
phrase. But rather, when she was alone in any 
chamber of the house, and heard his foot passing 
on the corridors, something in her bosom rose 
slowly until her breath was suspended, and as 
slowly fell again with a deep sigh, when the steps 
had passed and she was disappointed of her eyes' 
desire. This perpetual hunger and thirst of his 
presence kept her all day on the alert. When he 
went forth at morning, she would stand and fol- 
low him with admiring looks. As it grew late 
and drew to the time of his return, she would 
steal forth to a corner of the policy wall and be 
seen standing there sometimes by the hour to- 
gether, gazing with shaded eyes, waiting the ex- 
quisite and barren pleasure of his view a mile 
off on the mountains. W T hen at night she had 
trimmed and gathered the fire, turned down his 
bed, and laid out his night-gear when there was 
no more to be done for the king's pleasure, but 
to remember him fervently in her usually very 
tepid prayers, and go to bed brooding upon his 
perfections, his future career, and what she 
should give him the next day for dinner there 
still remained before her one more opportunity; 
she was still to take in the tray and say good- 
night. Sometimes Archie would glance up from 
his book with a pre-occupied nod and a perfunc- 
tory salutation which was in truth a dismissal; 

288 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

sometimes and by degrees more often the 
volume would be laid aside, he would meet her 
coming with a look of relief; and the conversa- 
tion would be engaged, last out the supper, and 
be prolonged till the small hours by the waning 
fire. It was no wonder that Archie was fond of 
company after his solitary days; and Kirstie, 
upon her side, exerted all the arts of her vigorous 
nature to ensnare his attention. She would keep 
back some piece of news during dinner to be fired 
off with the entrance of the supper tray, and form 
as it were the lever de rideau of the evening's en- 
tertainment. Once he had heard her tongue 
wag, she made sure of the result. From one 
subject to another she moved by insidious tran- 
sitions, fearing the least silence, fearing almost to 
give him time for an answer lest it should slip 
into a hint of separation. Like so many people 
of her class, she was a brave narrator; her place 
was on the hearth-rug and she made it a rostrum, 
miming her stories as she told them, fitting them 
with vital detail, spinning them out with endless 
"quo' he's" and "quo' she's," her voice sinking 
into a whisper over the supernatural or the hor- 
rific; until she would suddenly spring up in af- 
fected surprise, and pointing to the clock, "Mer- 
cy, Mr. Archie!" she would say, "Whatten a 
time o' night is this of it ! God forgive me for a 
daft wife!" So it befell, by good management, 
that she was not only the first to begin these noc- 
turnal conversations, but invariably the first to 

289 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

break them off; so she managed to retire and not 
to be dismissed. 

3. A Border Family 

Such an unequal intimacy has never been un- 
common in Scotland, where the clan spirit sur- 
vives; where the servant tends to spend her life 
in the same service, a helpmeet at first, then a 
tyrant, and at last a pensioner; where, besides, 
she is not necessarily destitute of the pride of 
birth, but is, perhaps, like Kirstie, a connection 
of her master's, and at least knows the legend of 
her own family, and may count kinship with 
some illustrious dead. For that is the mark of 
the Scot of all classes: that he stands in an atti- 
tude towards the past unthinkable to English- 
men, and remembers and cherishes the memory 
of his forbears, good or bad; and there burns 
alive in him a sense of identity with the dead 
even to the twentieth generation. No more char- 
acteristic instance could be found than in the 
family of Kirstie Elliott. They were all, and 
Kirstie the first of all, ready and eager to pour 
forth the particulars of their genealogy, embel- 
lished with every detail that memory had handed 
down or fancy fabricated; and, behold! from 
every ramification of that tree there dangled a 
halter. The Elliotts themselves have had a 
chequered history; but these Elliotts deduced, 
besides, from three of the most unfortunate of 
the border clans the Nicksons, the Ellwalds, 

290 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

and the Crozers. One ancestor after another 
might be seen appearing a moment out of the 
rain and the hill mist upon his furtive business, 
speeding home, perhaps, with a paltry booty of 
lame horses and lean kine, or squealing and deal- 
ing death in some moorland feud of the ferrets 
and the wildcats. One after another closed his 
obscure adventures in mid-air, triced up to the 
arm of the royal gibbet or the Baron's dule-tree. 
For the rusty blunderbuss of Scots criminal jus- 
tice, which usually hurts nobody but jurymen, 
became a weapon of precision for the Nicksons, 
the Ellwalds, and the Crozers. The exhilaration 
of their exploits seemed to haunt the memories 
of their descendants alone, and the shame to be 
forgotten. Pride glowed in their bosoms to pub- 
lish their relationship to "Andrew Ellwald of the 
Laverockstanes, called 'Unchancy Dand,' who 
was justifeed wi' seeven mair of the same name 
at Jeddart in the days of King James the Sax." 
In all this tissue of crime and misfortune, the 
Elliotts of Cauldstaneslap had one boast which 
must appear legitimate : the males were gallows- 
birds, born outlaws, petty thieves, and deadly 
brawlers; but according to the same tradition, 
the females were all chaste and faithful. The 
power of ancestry on the character is not limited 
to the inheritance of cells. If I buy ancestors by 
the gross from the benevolence of Lion King at 
Arms, my grandson (if he is Scottish) will feel a 
quickening emulation of their deeds. The men 

291 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

of the Elliotts were proud, lawless, violent as of 
right, cherishing and prolonging a tradition. In 
like manner with the women. And the woman, 
essentially passionate and reckless, who crouched 
on the rug in the shine of the peat fire, telling 
these tales, had cherished through life a wild 
integrity of virtue. 

Her father Gilbert had been deeply pious, a 
savage disciplinarian in the antique style, and 
withal a notorious smuggler. "I mind when I 
was a bairn getting mony a skelp and being 
shoo'd to bed like pou'try," she would say. 
"That would be when the lads and their bit 
kegs were on the road. We've had the riffraff 
of two-three counties in our kitchen, mony's the 
time, betwix' the twelve and the three; and their 
lanterns would be standing in the forecourt, ay, 
a score o' them at once. But there was nae 
ungodly talk permitted at Cauldstaneslap ; my 
faither was a consistent man in walk and conver- 
sation; just let slip an aith, and there was the 
door to ye! He had that zeal for the Lord, it 
was a fair wonder to hear him pray, but the 
faim'ly has aye had a gift that way." This 
father was twice married, once to a dark woman 
of the old Ellwald stock, by whom he had Gil- 
bert, presently of Cauldstaneslap ; and, secondly, 
to the mother of Kirstie. " He was an auld man 
when he married her, a fell auld man wi' a 
muckle voice you could hear him rowting from 
the top o' the Kye-skairs," she said ; "but for her, 

292 



-b 

WINTER ON THE MOORS 

it appears, she was a perfit wonder. It was 
gentle blood she had, Mr. Archie, for it was your 
ain. The countryside gaed gyte about her and 
her gowden hair. Mines is no' to be mentioned 
wi' it, and there's few weemen has mair hair than 
what I have, or yet a bonnier colour. Often 
would I tell my dear Miss JeannieJ that was 
your mother, dear, she was cruel ta'en up about 
her hair, it was unco tender, ye see 'Hoots, 
Miss Jeannie,' I would say, 'just fling your 
washes and your French dentifrishes in the back 
o' the fire, for that's the place for them; and 
awa' down to a burn-side, and wash yersel' in 
cauld hill water, and dry your bonny hair in the 
caller wind o' the muirs, the way that my mother 
aye washed hers, and that I have aye made it a 
practice to have washen mines just you do what 
I tell ye, my dear, and ye'll give me news of it ! 
Ye'll have hair, and routh of hair, a pigtail as 
thick's my arm,' I said, 'and the bonniest colour 
like the clear gowden guineas, so as the lads in 
kirk'll no' can keep their eyes off it ! ' Weel, it 
lasted out her time, puir thing! I cuttit a lock 
of it upon her corp that was lying there sae cauld. 
I'll show it ye some of thir days if ye're good. 

But, as I was sayin', my mither " 

On the death of the father there remained 
golden-haired Kirstie, who took service with her 
distant kinsfolk, th^. Rutherfords, and black-a- 
vised Gilbert, twenty years older, who farmed the 
Cauldstaneslap, married, and begot four sons 

293 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

between 1773 and 1784, and a daughter, like a 
postscript, in '97, the year of Camperdown and 
Cape St. Vincent. It seemed it was a tradition 
of the family to wind up with a belated girl. In 
1804, at the age of sixty, Gilbert met an end that 
might be called heroic. He was due home from 
market any time from eight at night till five 
in the morning, and in any condition from the 
quarrelsome to the speechless, for he maintained 
to that age the goodly customs of the Scots 
farmer. It was known on this occasion that he 
had a good bit of money to bring home; the word 
had gone round loosely. The laird had shown 
his guineas, and if anybody had but noticed it, 
there was an ill-looking, vagabond crew, the 
scum of Edinburgh, that drew out of the market 
long ere it was dusk and took the hill-road by 
Hermiston, where it was not to be believed that 
they had lawful business. One of the country- 
side, one Dickieson, they took with them to be 
their guide, and dear he paid for it! Of a sud- 
den, in the ford of the Broken Dykes, this vermin 
clan fell on the laird, six to one, and him three 
parts asleep, having drunk hard. But it is ill to 
catch an Elliott. For a while, in the night and 
the black water that was deep as to his saddle- 
girths, he wrought with his staff like a smith at 
his stithy, and great was the sound of oaths and 
blows. With that the ambuscade was burst, 
and he rode for home with a pistol-ball in him, 
three knife-wounds, the loss of his front teeth, a 

294 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

broken rib and bridle, and a dying horse. That 
was a race with death that the laird rode. In 
the mirk night, with his broken bridle and his 
head swimming, he dug his spurs to the rowels 
in the horse's side, and the horse, that was even 
worse off than himself, the poor creature! 
screamed out loud like a person as he went, so 
that the hills echoed with it, and the folks at 
Cauldstaneslap got to their feet about the table 
and looked at each other with white faces. The 
horse fell dead at the yard gate, the laird won 
the length of the house and fell there on the 
threshold. To the son that raised him he gave 
the bag of money. "Hae," said he. All the 
way up the thieves had seemed to him to be at 
his heels, but now the hallucination left him he 
saw them again in the place of the ambuscade-^ 
and the thirst of vengeance seized on his dying 
mind. Raising himself and pointing with an im- 
perious finger into the black night from which 
he had come, he uttered the single command, 
"Brocken Dykes," and fainted. He had never 
been loved, but he had been feared in honour. 
At that sight, at that word, gasped out at them 
from a toothless and bleeding mouth, the old 
Elliott spirit awoke with a shout in the four 
sons. ' ' Wanting the hat J ' continues my author, 
Kirstie, whom I but haltingly follow, for she told 
this tale like one inspired, "wanting guns, for 
there wasna twa grains o' pouder in the house, 
wi' nae mair weepons than their sticks irito their 

295 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

hands, the fower o' them took the road. Only 
Hob, and that was the eldest, hunkered at the 
door-sill where the blood had rin, fyled his hand 
wi' it, and haddit it up to Heeven in the way 
o' the auld Border aith. 'Hell shall have her 
am again this nicht!' he raired, and rode forth 
upon his arrand." It was three miles to Broken 
Dykes, down hill, and a sore road. Kirstie had 
seen men from Edinburgh dismounting there in 
plain day to lead their horses. But the four 
brothers rode it as if Auld Hornie were behind 
and Heaven in front. Come to the ford, and 
there was Dickieson. By all tales, he was not 
dead, but breathed and reared upon his elbow, 
and cried out to them for help. It was at a 
graceless face that he asked mercy. As soon as 
Hob saw, by the glint of the lantern, the eyes 
shining and the whiteness of the teeth in the 
man's face, "Damn you!" says he; "ye hae your 
teeth, hae ye?" and rode his horse to and fro 
upon that human remnant. Beyond that, Dan- 
die must dismount with the lantern to be their 
guide; he was the youngest son, scarce twenty 
at the time. "A' nicht long they gaed in the 
wet heath and jennipers, and whaur they gaed 
they neither knew nor cared, but just followed 
the bluidstains and the footprints o' their 
faither's murderers. And a' nicht Dandie had 
his nose to the grund like a tyke, and the ithers 
followed and spak' naething, neither black nor 
white. There was nae noise to be heard, but 

296 






WINTER ON THE MOORS 

just the sough of the swalled burns, and Hob, 
the dour yin, risping his teeth as he gaed." With 
the first glint of the morning they saw they were 
on the drove road, and at that the four stopped 
and had a dram to their breakfasts, for they 
knew that Dand must have guided them right, 
and the rogues could be but little ahead, hot 
foot for Edinburgh by the way of the Pentland 
Hills. By eight o'clock they had word of them 
a shepherd had seen four men "uncoly mis- 
handled" go by in the last hour. "That's yin 
a piece," says Clem, and swung his cudgel. 
"Five o' them!" says Hob. "God's death, but 
the faither was a man! And him drunk!" And 
then there befell them what my author termed 
"a sair misbegowk," for they were overtaken by 
a posse of mounted neighbours come to aid in the 
pursuit. Four sour faces looked on the rein- 
forcement. "The deil's broughten you!" said 
Clem, and they rode thenceforward in the rear 
of the party with hanging heads. Before ten 
they had found and secured the rogues, and by 
three of the afternoon, as they rode up the Vennel 
with their prisoners, they were aware of a con- 
course of people bearing in their midst something 
that dripped. "For the Doady of the saxt," 
pursued Kirstie, "wi' his head smashed like a 
hazel-nit, had been a' that nicht in the chairge o' 
Hermiston Water, and it dunting it on the stanes, 
and grunding it on the shallows, and flinging the 
deid thing heels-ower-hurdie at the Fa's o* 

297 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Spango; and in the first o' the day Tweed had 
got a hold o' him and carried him off like a wind, 
for it was uncoly swalled and raced wi' him, 
bobbing under brae-sides, and was long playing 
with the creature in the drumlie lynns under the 
castle, and at the hinder end of all cuist him up 
on the starling of Crossmichael brig. Sae there 
they were a' thegither at last (for Dickieson had 
been brought in on a cart long syne), and folk 
could see what mainner o' man my brither had 
been that had held his head again' sax and saved 
the siller, and him drunk!" Thus died of hon- 
ourable injuries and in the savour of fame Gil- 
bert Elliott of the Cauldstaneslap; but his sons 
had scarce less glory out of the business. Their 
savage haste, the skill with which Dand had 
found and followed the trail, the barbarity to 
the wounded Dickieson (which was like an open 
secret in the county) and the doom which it was 
currently supposed they had intended for the 
others, struck and stirred popular imagination- 
Some century earlier the last of the minstrels 
might have fashioned the last of the ballads out 
of that Homeric fight and chase; but the spirit 
was dead, or had been reincarnated already in 
Mr. Sheriff Scott, and the degenerate moorsmen 
must be content to tell the tale in prose and to 
make of the "Four Black Brothers" a unit after 
the fashion of the "Twelve Apostles" or the 
"Three Musketeers." 

Robert, Gilbert, Clement, and Andrew in the 
298 



proper Border diminutive, Hob, Gib, Clem, and 
Dand Elliott these ballad heroes had much in 
common; in particular, their high sense of the 
family and the family honour; but they went 
diverse ways, and prospered and failed in dif- 
ferent businesses. According to Kirstie, "they 
had a' bees in their bonnets but Hob." Hob the 
laird was, indeed, essentially a decent man. An 
elder of the Kirk, nobody had heard an oath upon 
his lips, save, perhaps, thrice or so at the sheep- 
washing, since the chase of his father's mur- 
derers. The figure he had shown on that event- 
ful night disappeared as if swallowed by a trap. 
He who had ecstatically dipped his hand in the 
red blood, he who had ridden down Dickieson, 
became, from that moment on, a stiff and rather 
graceless model of the rustic proprieties; cannily 
profiting by the high war prices, and yearly 
stowing away a little nest-egg in the bank against 
calamity ; approved of and sometimes consulted 
by the greater lairds for the massive and placid 
sense of what he said, when he could be induced 
to say anything; and particularly valued by the 
minister, Mr. Torrance, as a light-hand man in 
the parish, and a model to parents. The trans- 
figuration had been for the moment only; some 
Barbarossa, some old Adam of our ancestors, 
sleeps in all of us till the fit circumstance shall 
call it into action; and for as sober as he now 
seemed, Hob had given once for all the measure 
of the devil that haunted him. He was married, 

299 



and, by reason of the effulgence of that legendary 
night, was adored by his wife. He had a mob of 
little lusty, barefoot children who marched in a 
caravan the long miles to school, the stages of 
whose pilgrimage were marked by acts of 
spoliation and mischief, and who were qualified 
in the countryside as "fair pests." But in the 
house, if "faither was in," they were quiet as 
mice. In short, Hob moved through life in a 
great peace the reward of any one who shall 
have killed his man, with any formidable and 
figurative circumstance, in the midst of a country 
gagged and swaddled with civilisation. 

It was a current remark that the Elliotts were 
"guid and bad, like sanguishes"; and certainly 
there was a curious distinction, the men of busi- 
ness coming alternately with the dreamers. The 
second brother, Gib, was a weaver by trade, had 
gone out early into the world to Edinburgh, and 
come home again with his wings singed. There 
was an exaltation in his nature which had led 
him to embrace with enthusiasm the principles 
of the French Revolution, and had ended by 
bringing him under the hawse of my Lord Her- 
miston in that furious onslaught of his upon the 
Liberals, which sent Muir and Palmer into exile 
and dashed the party into chaff. It was whis- 
pered that my lord, in his great scorn for the 
movement and prevailed upon a little by a sense 
of neighbourliness, had given Gib a hint. Meet- 
ing him one day in the Potterrow, my lord had 

300 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

stopped in front of him. "Gib, ye eediot," he 
had said, "what's this I hear of you? Poalitics, 
poalitics, poalitics, weaver's poalitics, is the way 
of it, I hear. If ye arena a' thegither dozened 
with eediocy, ye'll gang your ways back to Cauld- 
staneslap, and ca' your loom, and ca' your loom, 
man!" And Gilbert had taken him at the word 
and returned, with an expedition almost to be 
called flight, to the house of his father. The 
clearest of his inheritance was that family gift of 
prayer of which Kirstie had boasted; and the 
baffled politician now turned his attention to re- 
ligious matters or, as others said, to heresy and 
schism. Every Sunday morning he was in Cross- 
michael, where he had gathered together, one 
by one, a sect of about a dozen persons, who 
called themselves "God's Remnant of the True 
Faithful," or, for short, "God's Remnant." To 
the profane, they were known as "Gib's Deils." 
Bailie Sweedie, a noted humorist in the town, 
vowed that the proceedings always opened to the 
tune of "The Deil Fly Away with the Excise- 
man," and that the sacrament v^as dispensed in 
the form of hot whisky toddy ; both wicked hits at 
the evangelist, who had been suspected of smug- 
gling in his youth, and had been overtaken (as the 
phrase went) on the streets of Crossmichael one 
Fair day. It was known that every Sunday they 
prayed for a blessing on the arms of Bonaparte. 
For this, "God's Remnant," as they were "skail- 
ing" from the cottage that did duty for a temple, 

301 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

had been repeatedly stoned by the bairns, and 
Gib himself hooted by a squadron of Border 
volunteers in which his own brother, Dand, 
rode in a uniform and with a drawn sword. The 
"Remnant" were believed, besides, to be "anti- 
nomian in principle," which might otherwise 
have been a serious charge, but the way public 
opinion then blew it was quite swallowed up and 
forgotten in the scandal about Bonaparte. For 
the rest, Gilbert had set up his loom in an out- 
house at Cauldstaneslap, where he laboured as- 
siduously six days of the week. His brothers, 
appalled by his political opinions and willing to 
avoid dissension in the household, spoke but 
little to him ; he less to them, remaining absorbed 
in the study of the Bible and almost constant 
prayer. The gaunt weaver was dry-nurse at 
Cauldstaneslap, and the bairns loved him dearly. 
Except when he was carrying an infant in his 
arms, he was rarely seen to smile as, indeed, 
there were few smilers in that family. When his 
sister-in-law rallied him, and proposed that he 
should get a wife and bairns of his own, since he 
was so fond of them, "I have no clearness of 
mind upon that point," he would reply. If no- 
body called him in to dinner, he stayed out. Mrs. 
Hob, a hard, unsympathetic woman, once tried 
the experiment. He went without food all day, 
but at dusk, as the light began to fail him, he 
came into the house of his own accord, looking 
puzzled. "I've had a great gale of prayer upon 

302 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

my speerit," said he. "I canna mind sae 
muckle's what I had for denner." The creed of 
God's Remnant was justified in the life of its 
founder. "And yet I dinna ken," said Kirstie. 
"He's maybe no more stockfish than his neegh- 
bours! He rode wi' the rest o' them, and had a 
good stamach to the work, by a' that I hear! 
God's Remnant! The deil's clavers! There 
wasna muckle Christianity in the way Hob 
guided Johnny Dickieson, at the least of it; but 
Guid kens! Is he a Christian even? He might 
be a Mahommedan or a Deevil or a Fire-wor- 
shipper, for what I ken." 

The third brother had his name on a door- 
plate, no less, in the city of Glasgow. "Mr. 
Clement Elliott," as long as your arm. In his 
case, that spirit of innovation which had shown 
itself timidly in the case of Hob by the admission 
of new manures, and which had run to waste 
with Gilbert in subversive politics and heretical 
religions, bore useful fruit in many ingenious 
mechanical improA r ements. Jjv boyhood, from 
his addiction to strange devices of sticks and 
string, he had been counted the most eccentric 
of the family. But that was all by now, and he 
was a partner of his firm, and looked to die a 
bailie. He too had married, and was rearing a 
plentiful family in the smoke and din of Glasgow ; 
he was wealthy, and could have bought out his 
brother, the cock-laird, six times over, it was 
whispered; and when he slipped away to Cauld- 

303 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

staneslap for a well-earned holiday, which he did 
as often as he was able, he astonished the neigh- 
bours with his broadcloth, his beaver hat, and the 
ample plies of his neck-cloth. Though an emi- 
nently solid man at bottom, after the pattern of 
Hob, he had contracted a certain Glasgow brisk- 
ness and aplomb which set him off. All the other 
Elliotts were as lean as a rake, but Clement was 
laying on fat, and he panted sorely when he must 
get into his boots. Dand said, chuckling: "Ay, 
Clem has the elements of a corporation." "A 
provost and corporation," returned Clem. And 
his readiness was much admired. 

The fourth brother, Dand, was a shepherd to 
his trade, and by starts, when he could bring his 
mind to it, excelled in the business. Nobody 
could train a dog like Dandie; nobody, through 
the peril of great storms in the winter time, could 
do more gallantly. But if his dexterity were ex- 
quisite, his diligence was but fitful ; and he served 
his brother for bed and board, and a trifle of 
pocket-money when he asked for it. He loved 
money well enough, knew very well how to spend 
it, and could make a shrewd bargain when he 
liked. But he preferred a vague knowledge that 
he was well to windward to any counted coins 
in the pocket; he felt himself richer so. Hob 
would expostulate: "I'm an amature herd," 
Dand would reply: "I'll keep your sheep to you 
when I'm so minded, but I'll keep my liberty, 
too. Thir's no man can coandescend on what 

304 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

I'm worth." Clem would expound to him the 
miraculous results of compound interest, and 
recommend investments. "Ay, man?" Dand 
would say, "and do you think, if I took Hob's 
siller, that I wouldna drink it or wear it on the 
lassies? And, anyway, my kingdom is no' of this 
world. Either I'm a poet or else I'm nothing." 
Clem would remind him of old age. "I'll die 
young, like Robbie Burns," he would say stoutly. 
No question but he had a certain accomplish- 
ment in minor verse. His "Hermiston Burn," 
with its pretty refrain 

"I love to gang thinking whaur ye gang linking, 
Hermiston burn, in the ho we;" 

his "Auld, auld Elliotts, clay-cauld Elliotts, dour, 
bauld Elliotts of auld," and his really fascinat- 
ing piece about the Praying Weaver's Stone, had 
gained him in the neighbourhood the reputation, 
still possible in Scotland, of a local bard; and, 
though not printed himself, he wa?-i ^cognised by 
others who were and who had become famous. 
Walter Scott owed to Dandie the text of the 
"Raid of Wearie" in the Minstrelsy and made 
him welcome at his house, and appreciated his 
talents, such as they were, with all his usual 
generosity. The Ettrick Shepherd was his sworn 
crony; they would meet, drink to excess, roar 
out their lyrics in each other's faces, and quarrel 
and make it up again till bedtime. And besides 
these recognitions, almost to be called official, 

305 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Dandie was made welcome for the sake of his 
gift through the farmhouses of several contiguous 
dales, and was thus exposed to manifold tempta- 
tions which he rather sought than fled. He had 
figured on the stool of repentance, for once ful- 
filling to the letter the tradition of his hero and 
model. His humorous verses to Mr. Torrance 
on that occasion "Kenspeckle here my lane I 
stand" unfortunately too indelicate for further 
citation, ran through the country like a fiery 
cross; they were recited, quoted, paraphrased 
and laughed over as far away as Dumfries on the 
one hand and Dunbar on the other. 

These four brothers were united by a close 
bond, the bond of that mutual admiration or 
rather mutual hero-worship which is so strong 
among the members of secluded families who 
have much ability and little culture. Even the 
extremes admired each other. Hob, who had as 
much poetry as the tongs, professed to find 
pleasure in Dand's verses; Clem, who had no 
more religion than Claverhouse, nourished a 
heartfelt, at least an open-mouthed, admiration 
of Gib's prayers; and Dandie followed with 
relish the rise of Clem's fortunes. Indulgence 
followed hard on the heels of admiration. The 
laird, Clem and Dand, who were Tories and pa- 
triots of the hottest quality, excused to them- 
selves, with a certain bashfulness, the radical and 
revolutionary heresies of Gib. By another divi- 
sion of the family, the laird, Clem, and Gib, who 

306 



were men exactly virtuous, swallowed the dose 
of Dand's irregularities as a kind of clog or draw- 
back in the mysterious providence of God affixed* 
to bards, and distinctly probative of poetical 
genius. To appreciate the simplicity of their 
mutual admiration, it was necessary to hear 
Clem, arrived upon one of his visits, and dealing 
in a spirit of continuous irony with the affairs 
and personalities of that great city of Glasgow 
where he lived and transacted business. The 
various personages, ministers of the church, mu- 
nicipal officers, mercantile big-wigs, whom he had 
occasion to introduce, were all alike denigrated, 
all served but as reflectors to cast back a flatter- 
ing side-light on the house of Cauldstaneslap. 
The Provost, for whom Clem by exception enter- 
tained a measure of respect, he would liken to 
Hob. "He minds me o' the laird there," he 
would say. "He has some of Hob's grand, whun- 
stane sense, and the same way wi*Ii him of steik- 
ing his mouth when he's no' very pleased." And 
Hob, all unconscious, would draw down his upper 
lip and produce, as if for comparison, the formi- 
dable grimace referred to. The unsatisfactory 
incumbent of St. Enoch's Kirk was thus briefly 
dismissed: "If he had but twa fingers o' Gib's he 
would waken them up." And Gib, honest man! 
would look down and secretly smile. Clem was 
a spy whom they had sent out into the world of 
men. He had come back with the good news 
that there was nobody to compare with the Four 

307 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Black Brothers, no position that they would not 
adorn, no official that it would not be well they 
should replace, no interest of mankind, secular 
or spiritual, which would not immediately bloom 
under their supervision. The excuse of their 
folly is in two words: scarce the breadth of a hair 
divided them from the peasantry. The measure 
of their sense is this: that these symposia of rus- 
tic vanity were kept entirely within the family, 
like some secret ancestral practice. To the world 
their serious faces were never deformed by the 
suspicion of any simper of self-contentment. Yet 
it was known. "They hae a guid pride o' them- 
sel's!" was the word in the countryside. 

Lastly, in a Border story, there should be 
added their "to-names." Hob was The Laird. 
"Roy ne puis, prince ne daigne " ; he was the laird 
of Cauldstaneslap say fifty acres ipsissimus. 
Clement was Mr. Elliott, as upon his door-plate, 
the earlier Dafty having been discarded as no 
longer applicable, and indeed only a reminder 
of misjudgment and the imbecility of the public ; 
and the youngest, in honour of his perpetual 
wanderings, was known by the sobriquet of 
Randy Dand. 

It will be understood that not all this informa- 
tion was communicated by the aunt, who had 
too much of the family failing herself to appreci- 
ate it thoroughly in others. But as time went 
on, Archie began to observe an omission in the 
family chronicle. 

308 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

"Is there not a girl too?" he asked. 

"Ay. Kirstie. She was named from me, or 
my grandmother at least it's the same thing," 
returned the aunt, and went on again about 
Dand, whom she secretly preferred by reason of 
his gallantries. 

"But what is your niece like?" said Archie at 
the next opportunity. 

"Her? As black's your hatl But I dinna 
suppose she would maybe be what you would ca' 
ill-looked a' thegither. Na, she's a kind of a 
handsome jaud a kind o' gipsy," said the aunt, 
who had two sets of scales for men and women 
or perhaps it would be more fair to say that 
she had three, and the third and the most loaded 
was for girls. 

"How comes it that I never see her in church?" 
said Archie. 

"Deed, and I believe she's in/Glesgie with 
Clem and his wife. A heap goou she's like to 
get of it! I dinna say for men folk, but where 
weemen folk are born, there let them bide. Glory 
to God, I was never far'er from hers than Cross- 
michael." 

In the meantime it began to strike Archie as 
strange, that while she thus sang the praises of 
her kinsfolk, and manifestly relished their virtues 
and (I may say) their vices like a thing creditable 
to herself, there should appear not the least sign 
of cordiality between the house of Hermiston 
and that of Cauldstaneslap. Going to church 

309 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

of a Sunday, as the lady housekeeper stepped 
with her skirts kilted, three tucks of her white 
petticoat showing below, and her best India 
shawl upon her back (if the day were fine) in a 
pattern of radiant dyes, she would sometimes 
overtake her relatives preceding her more leisure- 
ly in the same direction. Gib of course was ab- 
sent : by skriegh of day he had been gone to Cross- 
michael and his fellow heretics; but the rest of 
the family would be seen marching in open order: 
Hob and Dand, stiff-necked, straight-backed six- 
footers, with severe dark faces, and their plaids 
about their shoulders; the convoy of children 
scattering (in a state of high polish) on the way- 
side, and every now and again collected by the 
shrill summons of the mother; and the mother 
herself, by a suggestive circumstance which 
might have afforded matter of thought to a more 
experienced observer than Archie, wrapped in a 
shawl nearly identical with Kirstie's but a 
thought more gaudy and conspicuously newer. 
At the sight, Kirstie grew more tall Kirstie 
showed her classical profile, nose in air and nos- 
tril spread, the pure blood came in her cheek 
evenly in a delicate living pink. 

"A braw day to ye, Mistress Elliott," said she, 
and hostility and gentility were nicely mingled 
in her tones. "A fine day, mem," the laird's 
wife would reply with a miraculous curtsey, 
spreading the while her plumage setting off, 
in other words, and with arts unknown to the 

310 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

mere man, the pattern of her India shawl. Be- 
hind her, the whole Cauldstaneslap contingent 
marched in closer order, and with an indescrib- 
able air of being in the presence of the foe; and 
while Dandie saluted his aunt with a certain fa- 
miliarity as of one who was well in court, Hob 
marched on in awful immobility. There ap- 
peared upon the face of this attitude in the fam- 
ily the consequences of some dreadful feud. Pre- 
sumably the two women had been principals in 
the original encounter, and the laird had prob- 
ably been drawn into the quarrel by the ears, too 
late to be included in the present skin-deep rec^ 
onciliation. 

"Kirstie," said Archie one day, "what is this 
you have against your family?" 

"I dinna complean," said Kirstie, with a flush. 
* ' I say naething. ' ' ^ 

"I see you do not not even good-d*iy to your 
own nephew," said he. 

"I hae naething to be ashamed of," said she. 
"I can say the Lord's Prayer with a good grace. 
If Hob was ill, or in preeson or poverty, I would 
see to him blithely. But for curtchying and 
complimenting and colloguing, thank ye kindly!" 

Archie had a bit of a smile: he leaned back in 
his chair. "I think you and Mrs. Robert are 
not very good friends," says he slyly, "when 
you have your India shawls on?" 

She looked upon him in silence, with a spar- 
kling eye but an indecipherable expression; and 

311 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

that was all that Archie was ever destined to 
learn of the battle of the India shawls. 

"Do none of them ever come here to see you? " 
he inquired. 

"Mr. Archie," said she, "I hope that I ken 
my place better. It would be a queer thing, I 
think, if I was to clamjamfry up your faither's 
house . . . that I should say it! wi' a 
dirty, black-a-vised clan, no ane o' them it was 
worth while to mar soap upon but just mysel' I 
Na, they're all damnifeed wi' the black Ellwalds. 
I have nae patience wi' black folk." Then, with 
a sudden consciousness of the case of Archie, 
"No' that it maitters for men sae muckle," she 
made haste to add, "but there's naebody can 
deny that it's unwomanly. Long hair is the or- 
nament o' woman ony way; we've good warran- 
dise for that it's in the Bible and wha can 
doubt that the Apostle had some gowden-haired 
lassie in his mind Apostle and all, for what was 
he but just a man like yersel'P" 



312 



CHAPTER VI 

A LEAF FROM CHRISTINA'S 
PSALM-BOOK 

4 RCHIE was sedulous at church. Sunday af- 
-L\- ter Sunday he sat down and stood up with 
that small company, heard the voice of Mr. 
Torrance leaping like an ill-played clarionet from 
key to key, and had an opportunity to study his 
moth-eaten gown and the black thread mittens 
that he joined together in prayer, and lifted up 
with a reverent solemnity in the act of benedic- 
tion. Hermiston pew was a little sqtiare box, 
dwarfish in proportion with the kirk itself, and 
enclosing a table not much bigger than a foot- 
stool. There sat Archie an apparent prince, the 
only undeniable gentleman and the only great 
heritor in the parish, taking his ease in the only 
pew, for no other in the kirk had doors. Thence 
he might command an undisturbed view of that 
congregation of solid plaided men, strapping 
wives and daughters, oppressed children, and 
uneasy sheep-dogs. It was strange how Archie 
missed the look of race; except the dogs, with 
their refined foxy faces and inimitably curling 

313 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

tails, there was no one present with the least 
claim to gentility. The Cauldstaneslap party 
was scarcely an exception; Dandie perhaps, as 
he amused himself making verses through the 
interminable burden of the service, stood out a 
little by the glow in his eye and a certain superior 
animation of face and alertness of body ; but even 
Dandie slouched like a rustic. The rest of. the 
congregation, like so many sheep, oppressed him 
with a sense of hob-nailed routine, day following 
day of physical labour in the open air, oatmeal 
porridge, peas bannock, the somnolent fire-side 
in the evening, and the night-long nasal slumbers 
in a box-bed. Yet he knew many of them to be 
shrewd and humorous, men of character, nota- 
ble women, making a bustle in the world and 
radiating an influence from their low-browed 
doors. He knew besides they were like other 
men; below the crust of custom, rapture found a 
way; he had heard them beat the timbrel before 
Bacchus had heard them shout and carouse over 
their whisky- toddy; and not the most Dutch- 
bottomed and severe faces among them all, 
not even the solemn elders themselves, but were 
capable of singular gambols at the voice of love. 
Men drawing near to an end of life's adventurous 
journey maids thrilling with fear and curiosity 
on the threshold of entrance women who had 
borne and perhaps buried children, who could 
remember the clinging of the small dead hands 
and the patter of the little feet now silent he 

314 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

marvelled that among all those faces there should 
be no face of expectation, none that was mobile, 
none into which the rhythm and poetry of life 
had entered. "0 for a live face," he thought; 
and at times he had a memory of Lady Flora; 
and at times he would study the living gallery 
before him with despair, and would see himself 
go on to waste his days in that joyless, pastoral 
place, and death come to him, and his grave be 
dug under the rowans, and the Spirit of the Earth 
laugh out in a thunder-peal at the huge fiasco. 

On this particular Sunday, there was no doubt 
but that the spring had come at last. It was 
warm, with a latent shiver in the air that made 
the warmth only the more welcome. The shal- 
lows of the stream glittered and tinkled among 
bunches of primrose. Vagrant scents of the 
earth arrested Archie by the way with moments 
of ethereal intoxication. The grey, Quakerish 
dale was still only awakened in places and patch- 
es from the sobriety of its wintry colouring; and 
he wondered at its beauty; an essential beauty 
of the old earth it seemed to him, not resident in 
particulars but breathing to him from the whole. 
He surprised himself by a sudden impulse to 
write poetry he did so sometimes, loose, gallop- 
ing octosyllabics in the vein of Scott and when 
he had taken his place on a boulder, near some 
fairy falls and shaded by a whip of a tree that 
was already radiant with new leaves, it still more 
surprised him that he should find nothing to 

315 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

write. His heart perhaps beat in time to some 
vast indwelling rhythm of the universe. By the 
time he came to a corner of the valley and could 
see the kirk, he had so lingered by the way that 
the first psalm was finishing. The nasal psalm- 
ody, full of turns and trills and graceless graces, 
seemed the essential voice of the kirk itself up- 
raised in thanksgiving. "Everything's alive," 
he said; and again cries it aloud, "Thank God, 
everything's alive!" He lingered yet a while in 
the kirk-yard. A tuft of primroses was bloom- 
ing hard by the leg of an old, black table tomb- 
stone, and he stopped to contemplate the random 
apologue. They stood forth on the cold earth 
with a trenchancy of contrast; and he was struck 
with a sense of incompleteness in the day, the 
season, and the beauty that surrounded him 
the chill there was in the warmth, the gross black 
clods about the opening primroses, the damp 
earthy smell that was everywhere intermingled 
with the scents. The voice of the aged Torrance 
within rose in an ecstasy. And he wondered if 
Torrance also felt in his old bones the joyous in- 
fluence of the spring morning; Torrance, or the 
shadow of what once was Torrance, that must 
come so soon to lie outside here in the sun and 
rain with all his rheumatisms, while a new min- 
ister stood in his room and thundered from his 
own familiar pulpit? The pity of it, and some- 
thing of the chill of the grave, shook him for a 
moment as he made haste to enter. 

316 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

He went up the aisle reverently and took his 
place in the pew with lowered eyes, for he feared 
he had already offended the kind old gentleman 
in the pulpit, and was sedulous to offend no fur- 
ther. He could not follow the prayer, not even 
the heads of it. Brightness of azure, clouds of 
fragrance, a tinkle of falling water and singing 
birds, rose like exhalations from some deeper, 
aboriginal memory, that was not his, but be- 
longed to the flesh on his bones. His body re- 
membered; and it seemed to him that bis body 
was in no way gross, but ethereal and perishable 
like a strain of music; and he felt for it an ex- 
quisite tenderness as for a child, an innocent, full 
of beautiful instincts and destined to an early 
death. And he felt for old Torrance of the 
many supplications, of the few days a pity that 
was near to tears. The prayer ended. Right 
over him was a tablet in the wall, the only orna- 
ment in the roughly masoned chapel for it was 
no more; the tablet commemorated, I was about 
to say the virtues, but rather the existence of a 
former Rutherford of Hermiston; and Archie, 
under that trophy of his long descent and local 
greatness, leaned back in the pew and contem- 
plated vacancy with the shadow of a smile be- 
tween playful and sad, that became him strange- 
ly. Dandie's sister, sitting by the side of Clem 
in her new Glasgow finery, chose that moment to 
observe the young laird. Aware of the stir of 
his entrance, the little formalist had kept her 

317 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

eyes fastened and her face prettily composed 
during the prayer. It was not hypocrisy, there 
was no one further from a hypocrite. The girl 
had been taught to behave: to look up, to look 
down, to look unconscious, to look seriously im- 
pressed in church, and in every conjuncture to 
look her best. That was the game of female life, 
and she played it frankly. Archie was the one 
person in church who was of interest, who was 
somebody new, reputed eccentric, known to be 
young, and a laird, and still unseen by Christina. 
Small wonder that, as she stood there in her at- 
titude of pretty decency, her mind should run 
upon him! If he spared a glance in her direc- 
tion, he should know she was a well-behaved 
young lady who had been to Glasgow. In reason 
he must admire her clothes, and it was possible 
that he should think her pretty. At that her 
heart beat the least thing in the world; and she 
proceeded, by way of a corrective, to call up and 
dismiss a series of fancied pictures of the young 
man who should now, by rights, be looking at 
her. She settled on the plainest of them, a pink 
short young man with a dish face and no figure, 
at whose admiration she could afford to smile; 
but for all that, the consciousness of his gaze 
(which was really fixed on Torrance and his 
mittens) kept her in something of a flutter till 
the word Amen. Even then, she was far too 
well-bred to gratify her curiosity with any im- 
patience. She resumed her seat languidly this 

318 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

was a Glasgow touch she composed her dress, 
rearranged her nosegay of primroses, looked first 
in front, then behind upon the other side, and at 
last allowed her eyes to move, without hurry, in 
the direction of the Hermiston pew. For a mo- 
ment, they were riveted. Next she had plucked 
her gaze home again like a tame bird who should 
have meditated flight. Possibilities crowded on 
her; she hung over the future and grew dizzy; 
the image of this young man, slim, graceful, 
dark, with the inscrutable half-smile, attracted 
and repelled her like a chasm. "I wonder, will 
I have met my fate? " she thought, and her heart 
swelled. 

Torrance was got some way into his first ex- 
position, positing a deep layer of texts as he went 
along, laying the foundations of his discourse, 
which was to deal with a nice point in divinity, 
before Archie suffered his eyes to wander. They 
fell first of all on Clem, looking insupportably 
prosperous and patronising Torrance with the 
favour of a modified attention, as of one who 
was used to better things in Glasgow. Though 
he had never before set eyes on him, Archie had 
no difficulty in identifying him, and no hesita- 
tion in pronouncing him vulgar, the worst of 
the family. Clem was leaning lazily forward 
when Archie first saw him. Presently he leaned 
nonchalantly back; and that deadly instrument, 
the maiden, was suddenly unmasked in profile. 
Though not quite in the front of the fashion (had 

319 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

anybody cared!), certain artful Glasgow mantua- 
makers, and her own inherent taste, had arrayed 
her to great advantage. Her accoutrement was, 
indeed, a cause of heart-burning, and almost 
of scandal, in that infinitesimal kirk company. 
Mrs. Hob had said her say at Cauldstaneslap. 
"Daft-like!" she had pronounced it. "A jaiket 
that'll no' meet! Whaur's the sense of a jaiket 
that'll no' button upon ye, if it should come to 
be weet? What do ye ca' thir things? Demmy 
brokens, d'ye say? They'll be brokens wi' a 
vengeance or ye can win back! Weel, I have 
naething to do wi' it it's no' good taste." Clem, 
whose purse had thus metamorphosed his sister, 
and who was not insensible to the advertisement, 
had come to the rescue with a "Hoot, woman! 
What do you ken of good taste that has never 
been to the ceety?" And Hob, looking on the 
girl with pleased smiles, as she timidly displayed 
her finery in the midst of the dark kitchen, had 
thus ended the dispute: " The cutty looks weel," 
he had said, "and it's no' very like rain. Wear 
them the day, hizzie ; but it's no' a thing to make 
a practice o'." In the breasts of her rivals, 
coming to the kirk very conscious of white under- 
linen, and their faces splendid with much soap, 
the sight of the toilet had raised a storm of 
varying emotion, from the mere unenvious ad- 
miration that was expressed in the long-drawn 
"Eh!" to the angrier feeling that found vent in 
an emphatic "Set her up!" Her frock was of 

320 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

straw-coloured jaconet muslin, cut low at the 
bosom and short at the ankle, so as to display her 
demi-broquins of Regency violet, crossing with 
many straps upon a yellow cobweb stocking. 
According to the pretty fashion in which our 
grandmothers did not hesitate to appear, and 
our great-aunts went forth armed for the pursuit 
and capture of our great-uncles, the dress was 
drawn up so as to mould the contour of both 
breasts, and in the nook between a cairngorm 
brooch maintained it. Here, too, surely in a 
very enviable position, trembled the nosegay 
of primroses. She wore on her shoulders or 
rather, on her back and not her shoulders, which 
it scarcely passed a French coat of sarsenet, 
tied in front with Margate braces, and of the 
same colour with her violet shoes. About her 
face clustered a disorder of dark ringlets, a 
little garland of yellow French roses surmounted 
her brow, and the whole was crowned by a village 
hat of chipped straw. Amongst all the rosy and 
all the weathered faces that surrounded her in 
church, she glowed like an open flower girl 
and raiment, and the cairngorm that caught the 
daylight and returned it in a fiery flash, and the 
threads of bronze and gold that played in her 
hair. 

Archie was attracted by the bright thing like 
a child. He looked at her again and yet again, 
and their looks crossed. The lip was lifted from 
her little teeth. He saw the red blood work 

321 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

vividly under her tawny skin. Her eye, which 
was great as a stag's, struck and held his gaze. 
He knew who she must be Kirstie, she of the 
harsh diminutive, his housekeeper's niece, the 
sister of the rustic prophet, Gib and he found 
in her the answer to his wishes. 

Christina felt the shock of their encountering 
glances, and seemed to rise, clothed in smiles, 
into a region of the vague and bright. But the 
gratification was not more exquisite than it was 
brief. She looked away abruptly, and imme- 
diately began to blame herself for that abrupt- 
ness. She knew what she should have done, 
too late turned slowly with her nose in the air. 
And meantime his look was not removed, but 
continued to play upon her like a battery of can- 
non constantly aimed, and now seemed to isolate 
her alone with him, and now seemed to uplift 
her, as on a pillory, before the congregation. 
For Archie continued to drink her in with his 
eyes, even as a wayfarer comes to a well-head on 
a mountain, and stoops his face, and drinks with 
thirst unassuageable. In the cleft of her little 
breasts the fiery eye of the topaz and the pale 
florets of primrose fascinated him. He saw the 
breasts heave, and the flowers shake with the 
heaving, and marvelled what should so much 
discompose the girl. And Christina was con- 
scious of his gaze saw it, perhaps, with the 
dainty plaything of an ear that peeped among 
her ringlets; she was conscious of changing 

322 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

colour, conscious of her unsteady breath. Like 
a creature tracked, run down, surrounded, she 
sought in a dozen ways to give herself a coun- 
tenance. She used her handkerchief it was a 
really fine one then she desisted in a panic: 
"He would only think I was too warm." She 
took to reading in the metrical psalms, and then 
remembered it was sermon-time. Last she put 
a "sugar-bool" in her mouth, and the next mo- 
ment repented of the step. It was such a homely- 
like thing! Mr. Archie would never be eating 
sweeties in kirk; and, with a palpable effort, she 
swallowed it whole, and her colour flamed high. 
At this signal of distress Archie awoke to a sense 
of his ill-behaviour. What had he been doing? 
He had been exquisitely rude in church to the 
niece of his housekeeper; he had stared like a 
lackey and a libertine at a beautiful and modest 
girl. It was possible, it was even likely, he 
would be presented to her after service in the 
kirk-yard, and then how was he to look? And 
there was no excuse. He had marked the tokens 
of her shame, of her increasing indignation, and 
he was such a fool that he had not understood 
them. Shame bowed him down, and he looked 
resolutely at Mr. Torrance; who little supposed, 
good, worthy man, as he continued to expound 
justification by faith, what was his true business: 
to play the part of derivative to a pair of children 
at the old game of falling in love. 
Christina was greatly relieved at first. It 
323 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

seemed to her that she was clothed again. She 
looked back on what had passed. All would 
have been right if she had not blushed, a silly 
fool! There was nothing to blush at, if she had 
taken a sugar-bool. Mrs. MacTaggart, the 
elder's wife in St. Enoch's, took them often. 
And if he had looked at her, what was more 
natural than that a young gentleman should 
look at the best-dressed girl in church? And at 
the same time, she knew far otherwise; she knew 
there was nothing casual or ordinary in the look, 
and valued herself on its memory like a deco- 
ration. Well, it was a blessing he had found some- 
thing else to look at! And presently she began 
to have other thoughts. It was necessary, she 
fancied, that she should put herself right by a 
repetition of the incident, better managed. If 
the wish was father to the thought, she did not 
know or she would not recognise it. It was sim- 
ply as a manoeuvre of propriety, as something 
called for to lessen the significance of what had 
gone before, that she should a second time meet 
his eyes, and this time without blushing. And 
at the memory of the blush, she blushed again, 
and became one general blush burning from 
head to foot. Was ever anything so indelicate, 
so forward, done by a girl before? And here 
she was, making an exhibition of herself before 
the congregation about nothing! She stole a 
glance upon her neighbours, and behold! they 
were steadily indifferent, and Clem had gone 

324 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

to sleep. And still the one idea was becoming 
more and more potent with her, that in common 
prudence she must look again before the service 
ended. Something of the same sort was going 
forward in the mind of Archie, as he struggled 
with the load of penitence. So it chanced that, 
in the flutter of the moment when the last psalm 
was given out, and Torrance was reading the 
verse, and the leaves of every psalm-book in 
church were rustling under busy fingers, two 
stealthy glances were sent out like antennae 
among the pews and on the indifferent and ab- 
sorbed occupants, and drew timidly nearer to 
the straight line between Archie and Christina. 
They met, they lingered together for the least 
fraction of time, and that was enough. A charge 
as of electricity passed through Christina, and 
behold! the leaf of her psalm-book was torn 
across. 

Archie was outside by the gate of the grave- 
yard, conversing with Hob and the minister and 
shaking hands all round with the scattering 
congregation, when Clem and Christina were 
brought up to be presented. The laird took off 
his hat and bowed to her with grace and respect. 
Christina made her Glasgow curtsey to the 
laird, and went on again up the road for Her- 
miston and Cauldstaneslap, walking fast, breath- 
ing hurriedly with a heightened colour, and in 
this strange frame of mind, that when she was 
alone she seemed in high happiness, and when 

325 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

any one addressed her she resented it like a con- 
tradiction. A part of the way she had the com- 
pany of some neighbour girls and a loutish 
young man; never had they seemed so insipid, 
never had she made herself so disagreeable. But 
these struck aside to their various destinations 
or were out-walked and left behind; and when 
she had driven off with sharp words the proffered 
convoy of some of her nephews and nieces, she 
was free to go on alone up Hermiston brae, walk- 
ing on air, dwelling intoxicated among clouds of 
happiness. Near to the summit she heard steps 
behind her, a man's steps, light and very rapid. 
She knew the foot at once and walked the 
faster. " If it's me he's wanting he can run for 
it," she thought, smiling. 

Archie overtook her like a man whose mind 
was made up. 

"Miss Kirstie," he began. 

"Miss Christina, if you please, Mr. Weir," she 
interrupted. "I canna bear the contraction." 

"You forget it has a friendly sound for me. 
Your aunt is an old friend of mine and a very 
good one. I hope we shall see much of you at 
Hermiston?" 

"My aunt and my sister-in-law doesna agree 
very well. Not that I have much ado with it. 
But still when I'm stopping in the house, if I 
was to be visiting my aunt, it would not look 
considerate-like. ' ' 

"I am sorry," said Archie. 
326 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

"I thank you kindly, Mr. Weir," she said. 
"I whiles think myself it's a great peety." 

"Ah, I am sure your voice would always be for 
peace!" he cried. 

"I wouldna be too sure of that," she said. " I 
have my days like other folk, I suppose." 

"Do you know, in our old kirk, among our 
good old grey dames, you made an effect like 
sunshine." 

"Ah, but that would be my Glasgow clothes!" 

"I did not think I was so much under the in- 
fluence of pretty frocks." 

She smiled with a half look at him. "There's 
more than you!" she said. "But you see I'm 
only Cinderella. I'll have to put all these things 
by in my trunk; next Sunday I'll be as grey as 
the rest. They're Glasgow clothes, you see, and 
it would never do to make a practice of it. It 
would seem terrjble conspicuous." 

By that they were come to the place where 
their ways severed. The old grey moors were 
all about them; in the midst a few sheep wan- 
dered; and they could see on the one hand the 
straggling caravan scaling the braes in front 
of them for Cauldstaneslap, and on the other 
the contingent from Hermiston bending off and 
beginning to disappear by detachments into the 
policy gate. It was in these circumstances that 
they turned to say farewell, and deliberately ex- 
changed a glance as they shook hands. All 
passed as it should, genteelly ; and in Christina's 

327 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

mind, as she mounted the first steep ascent for 
Cauldstaneslap, a gratifying sense of triumph 
prevailed over the recollection of minor lapses 
and mistakes. She had kilted her gown, as she 
did usually at that rugged pass; but when she 
spied Archie still standing and gazing after her, 
the skirts came down again as if by enchantment. 
Here was a piece of nicety for that upland 
parish, where the matrons marched with their 
coats kilted in the rain, and the lasses walked 
barefoot to kirk through the dust of summer, 
and went bravely down by the burnside, and sat 
on stones to make a public toilet before entering! 
It was perhaps an air wafted from Glasgow; or 
perhaps it marked a stage of that dizziness of 
gratified vanity, in which the instinctive act 
passed unperceived. He was looking after! 
She unloaded her bosom of a prodigious sigh 
that was all pleasure, and betook herself to run. 
When she had overtaken the stragglers of her 
family, she caught up the niece whom she had 
so recently repulsed, and kissed and slapped her, 
and drove her away again, and ran after her with 
pretty cries and laughter. Perhaps she thought 
the laird might still be looking! But it chanced 
the little scene came under the view of eyes less 
favourable; for she overtook Mrs. Hob marching 
with Clem and Dand. 

"You're shiirely fey, 1 lass!" quoth Dandie. 

1 Unlike yourself, strange, as persons are observed to be in the hour 
of approaching death or calamity. 

328 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

"Think shame to yersel', miss!" said the 
strident Mrs. Hob. "Is this the gait to guide 
yersel' on the way hame frae kirk? You're 
shiirely no' sponsible the day. And anyway I 
would mind my guid claes." 

"Hoot!" said Christina, and went on before 
them, head in air, treading the rough track with 
the tread of a wild doe. 

She was in love with herself, her destiny, the 
air of the hills, the benedictions of the sun. All 
the way home, she continued under the intoxi- 
cation of these sky-scraping spirits. At table 
she could talk freely of young Hermiston; gave 
her opinion of him offhand and with a loud 
voice, that he was a handsome young gentleman, 
real well-mannered and sensible-like, but it was 
a pity he looked doleful. Only the moment 
after a memory of his eyes in church embar- 
rassed her. But 'for this inconsiderable check, 
all through meal-time she had a good appetite, 
and she kept them laughing at table, until Gib 
(who had returned before them from Cross- 
michael and his separative worship) reproved 
the whole of them for their levity. 

Singing "in to herself" as she went, her mind 
still in the turmoil of glad confusion, she rose 
and tripped up-stairs to a little loft, lighted by 
four panes in the gable, where she slept with 
one of her nieces. The niece, who followed her, 
presuming on "Auntie's" high spirits, was 
flounced out of the apartment with small cere- 

329 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

mony, and retired, smarting and half-tearful, to 
bury her woes in the byre among the hay. Still 
humming, Christina divested herself of her 
finery, and put her treasures one by one in her 
great green trunk. The last of these was the 
psalm-book; it was a fine piece, the gift of Mis- 
tress Clem, in distinct old-faced type, on paper 
that had begun to grow foxy in the warehouse 
not by service and she was used to wrap it in a 
handkerchief every Sunday after its period of 
service was over, and bury it end-wise at the 
head of her trunk. As she now took it in hand 
the book fell open where the leaf was torn, and 
she stood and gazed upon that evidence of her 
by-gone discomposure. There returned again 
the vision of the two brown eyes staring at her, 
intent and bright, out of that dark corner of the 
kirk. The whole appearance and attitude, the 
smile, the suggested gesture of young Hermiston 
came before her in a flash at the sight of the torn 
page. "I was surely fey!" she said, echoing the 
words of Dandie, and at the suggested doom her 
high spirits deserted her. She flung herself 
prone upon the bed, and lay there, holding the 
psalm-book in her hands for hours, for the more 
part in a mere stupor of unconsenting pleasure 
and unreasoning fear. The fear was supersti- 
tious; there came up again and again in her 
memory Dandie's ill-omened words, and a hun- 
dred grisly and black tales out of the immediate 
neighbourhood read her a commentary on their 

330 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

force. The pleasure was never realised. You 
might say the joints of her body thought and 
remembered, and were gladdened, but her essen- 
tial self, in the immediate theatre of conscious- 
ness, talked feverishly of something else, like a 
nervous person at a fire. The image that she 
most complacently dwelt on was that of Miss 
Christina in her character of the Fair Lass of 
Cauldstaneslap, carrying all before her in the 
straw-coloured frock, the violet mantle, and the 
yellow cobweb stockings. Archie's image, on 
the other hand, when it presented itself, was 
never welcomed far less welcomed with any 
ardour, and it was exposed at times to merciless 
criticism. In the long, vague dialogues she held 
in her mind, often with imaginary, often with 
unrealised interlocutors, Archie, if he were re- 
ferred to at all, ,came in for savage handling. 
He was described as "looking like a stork," 
"staring like a caulf," "a face like a ghaist's." 
''Do you call that manners?" she said; or, "I 
soon put him in his place." "'Miss Christina, 
if you please, Mr. Weir!' says I, and just flyped 
up my skirt tails." With gabble like this she 
would entertain herself long whiles together, and 
then her eye would perhaps fall on the torn leaf, 
and the eyes of Archie would appear again from 
the darkness of the wall, and the voluble words 
deserted her, and she would lie still and stupid, 
and think upon nothing with devotion, and be 
sometimes raised by a quiet sigh. Had a doctor 

331 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

of medicine come into that loft, he would have 
diagnosed a healthy, well-developed, eminently 
vivacious lass lying on her face in a fit of the 
sulks; not one who had just contracted, or was 
just contracting, a mortal sickness of the mind 
which should yet carry her towards death and 
despair. Had it been a doctor of psychology, 
he might have been pardoned for divining in the 
girl a passion of childish vanity, self-love in ex- 
celsis, and no more. It is to be understood that 
I have been painting chaos and describing the 
inarticulate. Every lineament that appears is 
too precise, almost every word used too strong. 
Take a finger-post in the mountains on a day of 
rolling mists; I have but copied the names that 
appear upon the pointers, the names of definite 
and famous cities far distant, and now perhaps 
basking in sunshine; but Christina remained all 
these hours, as it were, at the foot of the post 
itself, not moving, and enveloped in mutable and 
blinding wreaths of haze. 

The day was growing late and the sunbeams 
long and level, when she sat suddenly up, and 
wrapped in its handkerchief and put by that 
psalm-book which had already played a part so 
decisive in the first chapter of her love-story. 
In the absence of the mesmerist's eye, we are 
told nowadays that the head of a bright nail 
may fill his place, if it be steadfastly regarded. 
So that torn page had riveted her attention on 
what might else have been but little, and perhaps 

332 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

soon forgotten; while the ominous words of 
Dandie heard, not heeded, and still remem- 
bered had lent to her thoughts, or rather to her 
mood, a cast of solemnity, and that idea of 
Fate a pagan Fate, uncontrolled by any Chris- 
tian deity, obscure, lawless, and august moving 
indissuadably in the affairs of Christian men. 
Thus even that phenomenon of love at first 
sight, which is so rare and seems so simple and 
violent, like a disruption of life's tissue, may be 
decomposed into a sequence of accidents happily 
concurring. 

She put on a grey frock and a pink kerchief, 
looked at herself a moment with approval in the 
small square of glass that served her for a toilet 
miiror, and went softly down-stairs through the 
sleeping house that resounded with the sound of 
afternoon snoring. Just outside the door Dandie 
was sitting with a book in his hand, not reading, 
only honouring the Sabbath by a sacred vacancy 
of mind. She came near him and stood still. 

"I'm for off up the muirs, Dandie," she said. 

There was something unusually soft in her 
tones that made him look up. She was pale, her 
eyes dark and bright; no trace remained of the 
levity of the morning. 

"Ay, lass? Ye'll have yer ups and downs like 
me, I'm thinkin'," he observed. 

"What for do ye say that?" she asked. 

"0, for naething," says Dand. "Only I think 
ye're mair like me than the lave of them. Ye've 

333 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

mair of the poetic temper, tho' Guid kens little 
enough of the poetic taalent. It's an ill gift at 
the best. Look at yoursel'. At denner you 
were all sunshine and flowers and laughter, and 
now you're like the star of evening on a lake." 

She drank in this hackneyed compliment like 
wine, and it glowed in her veins. 

"But I'm saying, Dand" she came nearer 
him "I'm for the muirs. I must have a braith 
of air. If Clem was to be speiring for me, try 
and quaiet him, will ye no'?" 

"What way?" said Dandie. "I ken but the 
ae way, and that's leein'. I'll say ye had a sair 
heed, if ye like." 

"But I havena," she objected. 

"I daursay not," he returned. "I said I 
would say ye had ; and if ye like to nay-say me 
when ye come back, it'll no mateerially maitter, 
for my chara'ter's clean gane a'ready past reca'." 

"0, Dand, are ye a leear?" she asked, linger- 
ing. 

"Folks say sae," replied the bard. 

"Wha says sae?" she pursued. 

"Them that should ken the best," he re- 
sponded. "The lassies, for ane." 

"But, Dand, you would never lee to me?" 
she asked. 

"I'll leave that for your pairt of it, ye girzie," 
said he. "Ye'll lee to me fast eneuch, when ye 
hae gotten a jo. I'm tellin' ye and it's true; 
when you have a jo, Miss Kirstie, it'll be for 

334 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

guid and ill. I ken : I was made that way inysel', 
but the deil was in my luck! Here, gang awa 
wi' ye to your muirs, and let me be; I'm in an 
hour of inspiraution, ye upsetting tawpie!" 

But she clung to her brother's neighbourhood, 
she knew not why. 

"Will ye no gie's a kiss, DandP " she said. "I 
aye likit ye fine." 

He kissed her and considered her a moment; 
he found something strange in her. But he was 
a libertine through and through, nourished equal 
contempt and suspicion of all womankind, and 
paid his way among them habitually with idle 
compliments. 

"Gae wa' wi' yel" said he. "Ye're a dentie 
baby, and be content wi' that!" 

That was Dandie's way; a kiss and a comfit 
to Jenny a bawbee and my blessing to Jill 
and good-night to the whole clan of ye, my dears! 
When anything approached the serious, it be- 
came a matter for men, he both thought and said. 
Women, when they did not absorb, were only 
children to be shoo'd away. Merely in his char- 
acter of connoisseur, however, Dandie glanced 
carelessly after his sister as she crossed the 
meadow. "The brat's no' that bad ! " he thought 
with surprise, for though he had just been paying 
her compliments, he had not really looked at her. 
"Hey! what's yon?" For the grey dress was 
cut with short sleeves and skirts, and displayed 
her trim strong legs clad in pink stockings of the 

335 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

same shade as the kerchief she wore round her 
shoulders, and that shimmered as she went. 
This was not her way in undress; he knew her 
ways and the ways of the whole sex in the coun- 
try-side, no one better; when they did not go 
barefoot, they wore stout "rig and furrow" 
woollen hose of an invisible blue mostly, when 
they were not black outright; and Dandie, at 
sight of this daintiness, put two and two together. 
It was a silk handkerchief, then they would be 
silken hose; they matched then the whole out- 
fit was a present of Clem's, a costly present, and 
not something to be worn through bog and briar, 
or on a late afternoon of Sunday. He whistled. 
"My denty May, either your heid's fair turned, 
or there's some on-goings!" he observed, and 
dismissed the subject. 

She went slowly at first, but ever straighter 
and faster for the Cauldstaneslap, a pass among 
the hills to which the farm owed its name. The 
Slap opened like a doorway between two rounded 
hillocks; and through this ran the short cut to 
Hermiston. Immediately on the other side it 
went down through the Deil's Hags, a consid- 
erable marshy hollow of the hill-tops, full of 
springs, and crouching junipers, and pools where 
the black peat-water slumbered. There was no 
view from here. A man might have sat upon 
the Praying Weaver's Stone a half-century, and 
seen none but the Cauldstaneslap children twice 
in the twenty-four hours on their way to the 

336 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

school and back again, an occasional shepherd, 
the irruption of a clan of sheep, or the birds who 
haunted about the springs, drinking and shrilly 
piping. So, when she had once passed the Slap, 
Kirstie was received into seclusion. She looked 
back a last time at the farm. It still lay de- 
serted except for the figure of Dandie, who was 
now seen to be scribbling in his lap, the hour of 
expected inspiration having come to him at last. 
Thence she passed rapidly through the morass, 
and came to the farther end of it, where a slug- 
gish burn discharges, and the path for Hermiston 
accompanies it on the beginning of its downward 
path. From this corner a wide view was opened 
to her of the whole stretch of braes upon the other 
side, still sallow and in places rusty with the 
winter, with the path marked boldly, here and 
there by the burnside a tuft of birches, and 
three miles off as the crow flies from its en- 
closures and young plantations, the windows of 
Hermiston glittering in the western sun. 

Here she sat down and waited, and looked for 
a long time at these far-away bright panes of 
glass. It amused her to have so extended a 
view, she thought. It amused her to see the 
house of Hermiston to see "folk"; and there 
was an indistinguishable human unit, perhaps 
the gardener, visibly sauntering on the gravel 
paths. 

By the time the sun was down and all the 
easterly braes lay plunged in clear shadow, she 

337 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

was aware of another figure coming up the path 
at a most unequal rate of approach, now half- 
running, now pausing and seeming to hesitate. 
She watched him at first with a total suspension 
of thought. She held her thought as a person 
holds his breathing. Then she consented to 
recognise him. "He'll no* be coming here, he 
canna be; it's no' possible." And there began to 
grow upon her a subdued choking suspense. He 
was coming; his hesitations had quite ceased, 
his step grew firm and swift; no doubt remained; 
and the question loomed up before her instant: 
what was she to do? It was all very well to say 
that her brother was a laird himself; it was all 
very well to speak of casual intermarriages and 
to count cousinship, like Aunt Kirstie. The dif- 
ference in their social station was trenchant ; pro- 
priety, prudence, all that she had ever learned, 
all that she knew, bade her flee. But on the 
other hand the cup of life now offered to her was 
too enchanting. For one moment, she saw the 
question clearly, and definitely made her choice. 
She stood up and showed herself an instant in the 
gap relieved upon the sky line; and the next, 
fled trembling and sat down glowing with excite- 
ment on the Weaver's Stone. She shut her eyes, 
seeking, praying for composure. Her hand 
shook in her lap, and her mind was full of incon- 
gruous and futile speeches. What was there to 
make a work about? She could take care of 
herself, she supposed! There was no harm in 

338 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

seeing the laird. It was the best thing that 
could happen. She would mark a proper dis- 
tance to him once and for all. Gradually the 
wheels of her nature ceased to go round so 
madly, and she sat in passive expectation, a 
quiet, solitary figure in the midst of the grey 
moss. I have said she was no hypocrite, but 
here I am at fault. She never admitted to her- 
self that she had come up the hill to look for 
Archie. And perhaps after all she did not know, 
perhaps came as a stone falls. For the steps of 
love in the young, and especially in girls, are 
instinctive and unconscious. 

In the meantime, Archie was drawing rapidly 
near, and he at least was consciously seeking her 
neighbourhood. The afternoon had turned to 
ashes in his mouth; the memory of the girl had 
kept him from reading and drawn him as with 
cords; and at last, as the cool of the evening 
began to come on, he had taken his hat and 
set forth, with a smothered ejaculation, by the 
moor path to Cauldstaneslap. He had no hope 
to find her; he took the off chance without ex- 
pectation of result and to relieve his uneasiness. 
The greater was his surprise, as he surmounted 
the slope and came into the hollow of the Deil's 
Hags, to see there, like an answer to his wishes, 
the little womanly figure in the grey dress and 
the pink kerchief sitting little, and low, and lost, 
and acutely solitary, in these desolate surround- 
ings and on the weather-beaten stone of the 

339 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

dead weaver. Those things that still smacked 
of winter were all rusty about her, and those 
things that already relished of the spring had 
put forth the tender and lively colours of the 
season. Even in the unchanging face of the 
death-stone changes were to be remarked; and 
in the channelled lettering, the moss began to re- 
new itself in jewels of green. By an after-thought 
that was a stroke of art, she had turned up over 
her head the back of the kerchief; so that it now 
framed becomingly her vivacious and yet pen- 
sive face. Her feet were gathered under her on 
the one side, and she leaned on her bare arm, 
which showed out strong and round, tapered 
to a slim wrist, and shimmered in the fading 
light. 

Young Hermiston was struck with a certain 
chill. He was reminded that he now dealt in 
serious matters of life and death. This was a 
grown woman he was approaching, endowt J with 
her mysterious potencies and attractions, the 
treasury of the continued race, and he was nei- 
ther better nor worse than the average of his sex 
and age. He had a certain delicacy which had 
preserved him hitherto unspotted, and which 
(had either of them guessed it) made him a more 
dangerous companion when his heart should be 
really stirred. His throat was dry as he came 
near; but the appealing sweetness of her smile 
stood between them like a guardian angel. 

For she turned to him and smiled, though 
340 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

without rising. There was a shade in this cava- 
lier greeting that neither of them perceived ; 
neither he, who simply thought it gracious and 
charming as herself; nor yet she, who did not 
observe (quick as she was) the difference be- 
tween rising to meet the laird and remaining 
seated to receive the expected admirer. 

"Are ye stepping west, Hermiston?" said she, 
giving him his territorial name after the fashion 
of the country-side. 

"I was," said he, a little hoarsely , "but I think 
I will be about the end of my stroll now. Are 
you like me, Miss Christina? the house would not 
hold me. I came here seeking air." 

He took his seat at the other end of the tomb- 
stone and studied her, wondering what was she. 
There was infinite import in the question alike 
for her and him. 

"Ay," she said. "I couldna bear the roof 
either. It's a habit of mine to come up here 
about the gloaming when it's quaiet and caller." 

"It was a habit of my mother's also," he said 
gravely. The recollection half startled him as 
he expressed it. He looked around. "I have 
scarce been here since. It's peaceful," he said, 
with a long breath. 

"It's no' like Glasgow," she replied. "A 
weary place, yon Glasgow! But what a day 
have I had for my hame-coming, and what a 
bonny evening!" 

"Indeed, it was a wonderful day," said Ar- 
341 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

chie. "I think I will remember it years and 
years until I come to die. On days like this I 
do not know if you feel as I do but everything 
appears so brief, and fragile, and exquisite, that 
I am afraid to touch life. We are here for so 
short a time; and all the old people before us 
Rutherfords of Hermiston, Elliotts of the Cauld- 
staneslap that were here but a while since, 
riding about and keeping up a great noise in this 
quiet corner making love too, and marrying 
why, where are they now? It's deadly common- 
place, but after all, the commonplaces are the 
great poetic truths." 

He was sounding her, semi-consciously, to see 
if she could understand him; to learn if she were 
only an animal the colour of flowers, or had a 
soul in her to keep her sweet. She, on her part, 
her means well in hand, watched, womanlike, 
for any opportunity to shine, to abound in his 
humour, whatever that might be. The dra- 
matic artist, that lies dormant or only half- 
awake in most human beings, had in her sprung 
to his feet in a divine fury, and chance had served 
her well. She looked upon him with a subdued 
twilight look that became the hour of the day 
and the train of thought; earnestness shone 
through her like stars in the purple west; and 
from the great but controlled upheaval of her 
whole nature there passed into her voice, and 
rang in her lightest words, a thrill of emo- 
tion. 

342 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

"Have you mind of Band's song?" she an- 
swered. " I think ye'll have been trying to say 
what you have been thinking." 

"No, I never heard it," he said. "Repeat it 
to me, can you?" 

"It's nothing wanting the tune," said Kirstie. 

"Then sing it me," said he. 

"On the Lord's Day> That would never do, 
Mr. Weir!" 

"I am afraid I am not so strict a keeper of 
the Sabbath, and there is no one in this place 
to hear us, unless the poor old ancient under the 
stone." 

"No' that I'm thinking that really," she said. 
4 'By my way of thinking, it's just as serious as a 
psalm. Will I sooth it to ye, then?" 

" If you please," said he, and, drawing near to 
her on the tombstone, prepared to listen. 

She sat up as if to sing. "I'll only can sooth 
it to ye," she explained. "I wouldna like to 
sing out loud on the Sabbath. I think the birds 
would carry news of it to Gilbert," and she 
smiled. "It's about the Elliotts," she con- 
tinued, "and I think there's few bonnier bits in 
the book-poets, though Dand has never got 
printed yet." 

And she began, in the low, clear tones of her 
half-voice, now sinking almost to a whisper, now 
rising to a particular note which was her best, 
and which Archie learned to wait for with grow- 
ing emotion: 

343 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

"0 they rade in the rain, in the days that are gane, 

In the rain and the wind and the lave, 
They shoutit in the ha' and they routit on the hill, 

But they're a' quaitit noo in the grave. 

Auld, auld Elliotts, clay-cauld Elliotts, dour, bauld Elliotts of 
auld!" 



All the time she sang she looked steadfastly 
before her, her knees straight, her hands upon 
her knee, her head cast back and up. The ex- 
pression was admirable throughout, for had she 
not learned it from the lips and under the criti- 
cism of the author? When it was done, she 
turned upon Archie a face softly bright, and 
eyes gently suffused and shining in the twilight, 
and his heart rose and went out to her with 
boundless pity and sympathy. His question 
was answered. She was a human being tuned 
to a sense of the tragedy of lif e ; there were pathos 
and music and a great heart in the girl. 

He arose instinctively, she also, for she saw 
she had gained a point, and scored the impression 
deeper, and she had wit enough left to flee upon 
a victory. They were but commonplaces that 
remained to be exchanged, but the low, moved 
voices in which they passed made them sacred 
in the memory. In the falling greyness of the 
evening he watched her figure winding through 
the morass, saw it turn a last time and wave a 
hand, and then pass through the Slap; and it 
seemed to him as if something went along with 
her out of the deepest of his heart. And some- 

344 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

thing surely had come, and come to dwell there. 
He had retained from childhood a picture, now 
half-obliterated by the passage of time and the 
multitude of fresh impressions, of his mother 
telling him, with the fluttered earnestness of her 
voice, and often with dropping tears, the tale of 
the "Praying Weaver," on the very scene of his 
brief tragedy and long repose. And now there 
was a companion piece; and he beheld, and he 
should behold for ever, Chrisiina perched on the 
same tomb, in the grey colours of the evening, 
gracious, dainty, perfect as a flower, and she 
also singing 

"Of old, unhappy far-off things, 
And battles long ago," 

of their common ancestors now dead, of their 
rude wars composed, their weapons buried with 
them, and of these strange changelings, their 
descendants, who lingered a little in their places, 
and would soon be gone also, and perhaps sung 
of by others at the gloaming hour. By one of 
the unconscious arts of tenderness the two 
women were enshrined together in his memory. 
Tears, in that hour of sensibility, came into his 
eyes indifferently at the thought of either, and 
the girl, from being something merely bright and 
shapely, was caught up into the zone of things 
serious as life and death and his dead mother. 
So that in all ways and on either side, Fate 

345 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

played his game artfully with this poor pair of 
children. The generations were prepared, the 
pangs were made ready, before the curtain rose 
on the dark drama. 

In the same moment of time that she disap- 
peared from Archie, there opened before Kirstie's 
eyes the cup-like hollow in which the farm lay. 
She saw, some five hundred feet below her, the 
house making itself bright with candles, and this 
was a broad hint to her to hurry. For they 
were only kindled on a Sabbath night with a 
view to that family worship which rounded in the 
incomparable tedium of the day and brought on 
the relaxation of supper. Already she knew 
that Robert must be withni-sides at the head of 
the table, "waling the portions"; for it was 
Robert in his quality of family priest and judge, 
not the gifted Gilbert, who officiated. She made 
good time accordingly down the steep ascent, 
and came up to the door panting as the three 
younger brothers, all roused at last from slumber, 
stood together in the cool and the dark of the 
evening with a fry of nephews and nieces about 
them, chatting and awaiting the expected signal. 
She stood back; she had no mind to direct at- 
tention to her late arrival or to her labouring 
breath. 

"Kirstie, ye have shaved it this time, my 
lass," said Clem. "Whaur were ye?" 

"0, just taking a dander by mysel'," said 
Kirstie. 

346 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

And the talk continued on the subject of the 
American war, without further reference to the 
truant who stood by them in the covert of the 
dusk, thrilling with happiness and the sense of 
guilt. 

The signal was given, and the brothers began 
to go in one after another, amid the jostle and 
throng of Hob's children. 

Only Dandie, waiting till the last, caught 
Kirstie by the arm. "When did ye begin to dan- 
der in pink hosen, Mistress Elliott?" he whis- 
pered slyly. 

She looked down; she was one blush. "1 
maun have forgotten to change them," said she; 
and went in to prayers in her turn with a troubled 
mind, between anxiety as to whether Dand 
should have observed her yellow stockings at 
church, and should thus detect her in a palpable 
falsehood, and shame that she had already made 
good his prophecy. 

She remembered the words of it, how it was 
to be when she had gotten a jo, and that that 
would be for good and evil. "Will I have gotten 
my jo now?" she thought with a secret rapture. 

And all through prayers, where it was her 
principal business to conceal the pink stockings 
from the eyes of the indifferent Mrs. Hob and 
all through supper, as she made a feint of eating, 
and sat at the table radiant and constrained 
and again when she had left them and come into 
her chamber, and was alone with her sleeping 

347 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

niece, and could at last lay aside the armour of 
society the same words sounded within her, 
the same profound note of happiness, of a world 
all changed and renewed, of a day that had been 
passed in Paradise, and of a night that was to be 
heaven opened. All night she seemed to be con- 
veyed smoothly upon a shallow stream of sleep 
and waking, and through the bowers of Beulah; 
all night she cherished to her heart that exquisite 
hope; and if, towards morning, she forgot it 
a while in a more profound unconsciousness, it 
was to catch again the rainbow thought with her 
first moment of awaking. 



348 



CHAPTER VII 

ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

TWO days later a gig from Crossmichael de- 
posited Frank Innes at the doors of Hermis- 
ton. Once in a way, during the past winter, 
Archie, in some acute phase of boredom, had 
written him a letter. It had contained some- 
thing in the nature of an invitation, or a refer- 
ence to an invitation precisely what, neither of 
them now remembered. When Innes had re- 
ceived it, there had been nothing further from 
his mind than to bury himself in the moors with 
Archie; but not even the most acute political 
heads are guided through the steps of life with 
unerring directness. That would require a gift 
of prophecy which has been denied to man. For 
instance, who could have imagined that, not a 
month after he had received the letter, and 
turned it into mockery, and put off answering it, 
and in the end lost it, misfortunes of a gloomy 
cast should begin to thicken over Frank's ca- 
reer? His case may be briefly stated. His 
father, a small Morayshire laird with a large 
family, became recalcitrant and cut off the sup- 

349 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

plies; he had fitted himself out with the begin- 
nings of quite a good law library, which, upon 
some sudden losses on the turf, he had been 
obliged to sell before they were paid for; and 
his bookseller, hearing some rumour of the 
event, took out a warrant for his arrest. Innes 
had early word of it, and was able to take pre- 
cautions. In this immediate welter of his affairs, 
with an unpleasant charge hanging over him, he 
had judged it the part of prudence to be off in- 
stantly, had written a fervid letter to his father 
at Inverauld, and put himself in the coach for 
Crossmichael. Any por f , in a storm! He was 
manfully turning his back on the Parliament 
House and its gay babble, on porter and oysters, 
the racecourse and the ring; and manfully pre- 
pared, until these clouds should have blown by, 
to share a living grave with Archie Weir at 
Hermiston. 

To do him justice, he was no less surprised to 
be going than Archie was to see him come; and 
he carried off his wonder with an infinitely 
better grace. 

"Well, here I am!" said he, as he alighted. 
"Py lades has come to Orestes at last. By the 
way, did you get my answer? No? How very 
provoking! Well, here I am to answer for 
myself, and that's better still." 

"I am very glad to see you, of course," said 
Archie. "I make you heartily welcome, of 
course. But you surely have not come to stay, 

350 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

with the Courts still sitting; is that not most 
unwise?" 

" Damn the Courts ! " says Frank. "What are 
the Courts to friendship and a little fishing?" 

And so it was agreed that he was to stay, 
with no term to the visit but the term which he 
had privily set to it himself the day, namely, 
when his father should have come down with the 
dust, and he should be able to pacify the book- 
seller. On such vague conditions there began 
for these two young men (who were not even 
friends) a life of great familiarity and, as the 
days grew on, less and less intimacy. They were 
together at meal-times, together o' nights when 
the hour had come for whisky-toddy; but it 
might have been noticed (had there been any one 
to pay heed) that they were rarely so much to- 
gether by day. Archie had Hermiston to attend 
to, multifarious activities in the hills, in which 
he did not require, and had even refused, Frank's 
escort. He would be off sometimes in the morn- 
ing and leave only a note on the breakfast-table 
to announce the fact; and sometimes, with no 
notice at all, he would not return for dinner until 
the hour was long past. Innes groaned under 
these desertions; it required all his philosophy 
to sit down to a solitary breakfast with compo- 
sure, and all his unaffected good-nature to be 
able to greet Archie with friendliness on the more 
rare ocassions when he came home late for 
dinner. 

351 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

"I wonder what on earth he finds to do, Mrs. 
Elliott?" said he one morning, after he had just 
read the hasty billet and sat down to table. 

"I suppose it will be business, sir," replied the 
housekeeper dryly, measuring his distance off to 
him by an indicated curtsey. 

"But I can't imagine what business!" he re- 
iterated. 

"I suppose it will be his business," retorted 
the austere Kirstie. 

He turned to her with that happy brightness 
that made the charm of his disposition, and 
broke into a peal of nealthy and natural laughter. 

"Well played, Mrs. Elliott!" he cried, and the 
housekeeper's face relaxed into the shadow of 
an iron smile. "Well played indeed!" said he. 
"But you must not be making a stranger of me 
like that. Why, Archie and I were at the High 
School together, and we've been to College to- 
gether, and we were going to the Bar together, 
when you know! Dear me, dear me! what a 
pity that was! A life spoiled, a fine young fel- 
low as good as buried here in the wilderness 
with rustics; and all for what? A frolic, silly, 
if you like, but no more. God, how good your 
scones are, Mrs. Elliott!" 

"They're no' mines, it was the lassie made 
them," said Kirstie; "and, saving your presence, 
there's little sense in taking the Lord's name in 
vain about idle vivers that you fill your kyte wi'." 

"I daresay you're perfectly right, ma'am," 
352 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

quoth the imperturbable Frank. "But, as I 
was saying, this is a pitiable business, this about 
poor Archie; and you and I might do worse 
than put our heads together, like a couple of 
sensible people, and bring it to an end. Let me 
tell you, ma'am, that Archie is really quite a 
promising young man, and in m^ opinion he 
would do well at the Bar. As for his father, no 
one can deny his ability, and I don't fancy any 
one would care to deny that he has the deil's own 
temper " 

"If you'll excuse me, Mr. Innes, I think the 
lass is crying on me," said Kirstie, and flounced 
from the room. 

"The damned, cross-grained old broomstick!" 
ejaculated Innes. 

In the meantime, Kirstie had escaped into the 
kitchen, and before her vassal gave vent to her 
feelings. 

"Here, ettercap! Ye'll have to wait on yon 
Innes! I canna haud myself in. 'Puir Erchie'I 
I'd 'puir Erchie' him, if I had my way! And 
Hermiston with the deil's ain temper! God, let 
him take Hermiston's scones out of his mouth 
first. There's no' a hair on ayther o' the Weirs 
that hasna mair spunk and dirdum to it than 
what he has in his hale dwaibly body! Set- 
tin' up his snash to me! Let him gang to the 
black toon where he's mebbe wantit birling in 
a curricle wi' pimatum on his heid making a 
mess o' himsel' wi' nesty hizzies a fair dis- 

353 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

grace!" It was impossible to hear without ad- 
miration Kirstie's graduated disgust, as she 
brought forth, one after another, these somewhat 
baseless charges. Then she remembered her 
immediate purpose, and turned again on her 
fascinated auditor. " Do y^ no' hear me, tawpie? 
Do ye no' hear what I'm tellin' ye? Will I have 
to shoo ye in to him? If I come to attend to 
ye, mistress!" And the maid fled the kitchen, 
which hacV become practically dangerous, to at- 
tend on Innes's wants in the front parlour. 

Tantaene irse? Has the reader perceived the 
reason? Since Frank's coming there were no 
more hours of gossip over the supper tray ! All 
his blandishments were in vain; he had started 
handicapped on the race for Mrs. Elliott's favour. 

But it was a strange thing how misfortune 
dogged him in his efforts to be genial. I must 
guard the reader against accepting Kirstie's 
epithets as evidence; she was more concerned 
for their vigour than for their accuracy. Dwaib- 
ly, for instance; nothing could be more calum- 
nious. Frank was the very picture of good 
looks, good-humour, and manly youth. He had 
bright eyes with a sparkle and a dance to them, 
curly hair, a charming smile, brilliant teeth, an 
admirable carriage of the head, the look of a 
gentleman, the address of one accustomed to 
please at first sight and to improve the impres- 
sion. And with all these advantages, he failed 
with everyone about Hermiston; with the silent 

354 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

shepherd, with the obsequious grieve, with the 
groom who was also the ploughman, with the 
gardener and the gardener's sister a pious, 
down-hearted woman with a shawl over her 
ears he failed equally and flatly. They did 
not like him, and they showed it. The little 
maid, indeed, was an exception; she admired 
him devoutly, probably dreamed of him in her 
private hours; but she was accustomed to play 
the part of silent auditor to Kirstie's tirades and 
silent recipient of Kirstie's buffets, and she had 
learned not only to be a very capable girl of her 
years, but a very secret and prudent one besides. 
Frank was thus conscious that he had one ally 
and sympathiser in the midst of that general 
union of disfavour that surrounded, watched, 
and waited on him in the house of Hermiston; 
but he had little comfort or society from that 
alliance, and the demure little maid (twelve on 
her last birthday) preserved her own counsel, 
and tripped on his service, brisk, dumbly respon- 
sive, but inexorably unconversational. For the 
others, they were beyond hope and beyond en- 
durance. Never had a young Apollo been cast 
among such rustic barbarians. But perhaps the 
cause of his ill-success lay in one trait which was 
habitual and unconscious with him, yet diagnos- 
tic of the man. It was his practice to approach 
any one person at the expense of some one else. 
He offered you an alliance against the some one 
else; he flattered you by slighting him; you 

355 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

were drawn into a small intrigue against him 
before you knew how. Wonderful are the vir- 
tues of this process generally; but Frank's mis- 
take was in the choice of the some one else. He 
was not politic in that; he listened to the voice 
of irritation. Archie had offended him at first 
by what he had felt to be rather a dry reception; 
had offended him since by his frequent absences. 
He was besides the one figure continually present 
in Frank's eye; and it was to his immediate de- 
pendents that Frank could offer the snare of his 
sympathy. Now the truth is that the Weirs, 
father and son, were surrounded by a posse of 
strenuous loyalists. Of my lord they were 
vastly proud. It was a distinction in itself to be 
one of the vassals of the "Hanging Judge," and 
his gross, formidable joviality was far from un- 
popular in the neighbourhood of his home. For 
Archie they had, one and all, a sensitive affection 
and respect which recoiled from a word of be- 
littlement. 

Nor was Frank more successful when he went 
farther afield. To the Four Black Brothers, for 
instance, he was antipathetic in the highest de- 
gree. Hob thought him too light, Gib too pro- 
fane. Clem, who saw him but for a day or two 
before he went to Glasgow, wanted to know 
what the fule's business was, and whether he 
meant to stay here all session time! "Yon's 
a drone," he pronounced. As for Dand, it will 
be enough to describe their first meeting, when 

356 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

Frank had been whipping a river and the rustic 
celebrity chanced to come along the path. 

"I'm told you are quite a poet," Frank had 
said. 

"Wha tell 't ye that, mannie?" had been the 
unconciliating answer. 

"0, everybody," says Frank. 

' ' God ! Here's fame ! ' ' said the sardonic poet, 
and he had passed on his way. 

Come to think of it, we have here perhaps a 
truer explanation of Frank's failures. Had he 
met Mr. Sheriff Scott he could have turned a 
neater compliment, because Mr. Scott would have 
been a friend worth making. Dand, on the other 
hand, he did not value sixpence, and he showed 
it even while he tried to flatter. Condescension 
is an excellent thing, but it is strange how one- 
sided the pleasure of it is! He who goes fishing 
among the Scots peasantry with condescension 
for a bait will have an empty basket by evening. 

In proof of this theory Frank made a great 
success of it at the Crossmichael Club, to which 
Archie took him immediately on his arrival; his 
own last appearance on that scene of gaiety. 
Frank was made welcome there at once, con- 
tinued to go regularly, and had attended a meet- 
ing (as the members ever after loved to tell) on 
the evening before his death. Young Hay and 
young Pringle appeared again. There was an- 
other supper at Windielaws, another dinner at 
Driffel; and it resulted in Frank being taken to 

357 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

the bosom of the county people as unreservedly 
as he had been repudiated by the country folk. 
He occupied Hermistnn after the manner of an 
invader in a conquered capital. He was perpetu- 
ally issuing from it, as from a base, to toddy 
parties, fishing parties, and dinner parties, to 
which Archie was not invited, or to which Archie 
would not go. It was now that the name of 
The Recluse became general for the young man. 
Some say that Innes invented it; Innes, at least, 
spread it abroad. 

"How's all with your Recluse to-day?" people 
would ask. 

"0, reclusing away!" Innes would declare, 
with his bright air of saying something witty; 
and immediately interrupt the general laughter 
which he had provoked much more by his air 
than his words, "Mind you, it's all very well 
laughing, but I'm not very well pleased. Poor 
Archie is a good fellow, an excellent fellow, a 
fellow I always liked. I think it small of him to 
take his little disgrace so hard and shut himself 
up. 'Grant that it is a ridiculous story, pain- 
fully ridiculous,' I keep telling him. 'Be a man! 
Live it down, man!' But not he. Of course 
it's just solitude, and shame, and all that. But 
I confess I'm beginning to fear the result. It 
would be all the pities in the world if a really 
promising fellow like Weir was to end ill. I'm 
seriously tempted to write to Lord Hermiston, 
and put it plainly to him." 

358 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

"I would if I were you," some of his auditors 
would say, shaking the head, sitting bewildered 
and confused at this new view of the matter, 
so deftly indicated by a single word. "A capital 
idea!" they would add, and wonder at the 
aplomb and position of this young man, who 
talked as a matter of course of writing to Hermis- 
ton and correcting him upon his private affairs. 

And Frank would proceed, sweetly confiden- 
tial: "I'll give you an idea, now. He's actu- 
ally sore about the way that I'm received and 
he's left out in the county actually jealous and 
sore. I've rallied him and I've reasoned with 
him, told him that every one was most kindly 
inclined towards him, told him even that I was 
received merely because I was his guest. But 
it's no use. He will neither accept the invita- 
tions he gets, nor stop brooding about the ones 
where he's left out. What I'm afraid of is that 
the wound's ulcerating. He had always one of 
those dark, secret, angry natures a little under- 
hand and plenty of bile you know the sort. 
He must have inherited it from the Weirs, whom 
I suspect to have been a worthy family of 
weavers somewhere; what's the cant phrase! 
sedentary occupation. It's precisely the kind of 
character to go wrong in a false position like what 
his father's made for him, or he's making for 
himself, whichever you like to call it. And for 
my part, I think it a disgrace," Frank would say 
generously. 

359 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Presently the sorrow and anxiety of this dis- 
interested friend took shape. He began in pri- 
vate, in conversations of two, to talk vaguely of 
bad habits and low habits. "I must say I'm 
afraid he's going wrong altogether," he would 
sa^ "I'll tell you plainly, and between our- 
selves, I scarcely like to stay there any longer; 
only, man, I'm positively afraid to leave him 
alone. You'll see, I shah 1 be blamed for it later 
on. I'm staying at a great sacrifice. I'm hin- 
dering my chances at the Bar, and I can't blind 
my eyes to it. And what I'm afraid of is that I'm 
going to get kicked for it all round before all's 
done. You see, nobody believes in friendship 
nowadays." 

"Well, Innes," his interlocutor would reply, 
"it's very good of you, I must say that. If 
there's any blame going you'll always be sure 
of my good word, for one thing." 

"Well," Frank would continue, "candidly, I 
don't say it's pleasant. He has a very rough 
way with him; his father's son, you know. I 
don't say he's rude of course, I couldn't be 
expected to stand that but he steers very 
near the wind. No, it's not pleasant ; but I tell 
ye, man, in conscience I don't think it would 
be fair to leave him. Mind you, I don't say 
there's anything actually wrong. What I say 
is that I don't like the looks of it, man!" and 
he would press the arm of his momentary con- 
fidant. 

360 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

In the early stages I am persuaded there was 
no malice. He talked but for the pleasure of 
airing himself. He was essentially glib, as be- 
comes the young advocate, and essentially care- 
less of the truth, which is the mark of the young 
ass; and so he talked at random. There was no 
particular bias, but that one which is indigenous 
and universal, to flatter himself and to please and 
interest the present friend. And by thus milling 
air out of his mouth, he had presently built up 
a presentation of Archie which was known and 
talked of in all corners of the county. Wherever 
there was a residential house and a walled gar- 
den, wherever there was a dwarfish castle and a 
park, wherever a quadruple cottage by the ruins 
of a peel-tower showed an old family going down, 
and wherever a handsome villa with a carriage ap- 
proach and a shrubbery marked the coming up 
of a new one probably on the wheels of ma- 
chinery Archie began to be regarded in the light 
of a dark, perhaps a vicious mystery, and the 
future developments of his career to be looked 
for with uneasiness and confidential whispering. 
He had done something disgraceful, my dear. 
What, was not precisely known, and that good 
kind young man, Mr. Innes, did his best to make 
light of it. But there it was. And Mr. Innes 
was very anxious about him now; he was really 
uneasy, my dear; he was positively wrecking his 
own prospects because he dared not leave him 
alone. How wholly we ah 1 lie at the mercy of a 

361 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

single prater, not needfully with any malign pur- 
pose ! And if a man but talks of himself in the 
right spirit, refers to his virtuous actions by the 
way, and never applies to them the name of vir- 
tie, how easily his evidence is accepted in the 
court of public opinion! 

All this while, however, there was a more poi- 
sonous ferment at work between the two lads, 
which came late indeed to the surface, but had 
modified and magnified their dissensions from 
the first. To an idle, shallow, easy-going cus- 
tomer like Frank, the smell of a mystery was 
attractive. It gave his mind something to play 
with, like a new toy to a child; and it took him 
on the weak side, for like many young men com- 
ing to the Bar, and before they have been tried 
and found wanting, he flattered himself he was a 
fellow of unusual quickness and penetration. 
They knew nothing of Sherlock Holmes in these 
days, but there was a good deal said of Talley- 
rand. And if you could have caught Frank off 
his guard, he would have confessed with a smirk, 
that, if he resembled any one, it was the Marquis 
de Talleyrand-Perigord. It was on the occasion 
of Archie's first absence that this interest took 
root. It was vastly deepened when Kirstie re- 
sented his curiosity at breakfast, and that same 
afternoon there occurred another scene which 
clinched the business. He was fishing Swingle- 
burn, Archie accompanying him, when the latter 
looked at his watch. 

362 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

"Well, good-bye," said he. "I have some- 
thing to do. See you at dinner." 

"Don't be in such a hurry," cries Frank. 
"Hold on till I get my rod up. I'll go with you ; 
I'm sick of flogging this ditch." 

And he began to reel up his line. 

Archie stood speechless. He took a long while 
to recover his wits under this direct attack; but 
by the time he was ready with his answer, and 
the angle was almost packed up, he had become 
completely Weir, and the hanging face gloomed 
on his young shoulders. He spoke with a la- 
boured composure, a laboured kindness even; 
but a child could see that his mind was made up. 

"I beg your pardon, Innes; I don't want to be 
disagreeable, but let us understand one another 
from the beginning. When I want your com- 
pany, I'll let you know." 

"Oh!" cries Frank, "you don't want my com- 
pany, don't you?" 

"Apparently not just now," replied Archie. 
"I even indicated to you when I did, if you'll 
remember and that was at dinner. If we two 
fellows are to live together pleasantly and I 
see no reason why we should not it can only 
be by respecting each other's privacy. If we 
begin intruding " 

"Oh, come! I'll take this at no man's hands. 
Is this the way you treat a guest and an old 
friend?" cried Innes. 

"Just go home and think over what I said by 
363 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

yourself," continued Archie, "whether it's rea- 
sonable, or whether it's really offensive or not; 
and let's meet at dinner as though nothing had 
happened. I'll put it this way, if you like that 
I know my own character, that I'm looking for- 
ward (with great pleasure, I assure you) to a 
long visit from you, and that I'm taking pre- 
cautions at the first. I see the thing that we 
that I, if you like might fall out upon, and I 
step in and obsto principiis. I wager you five 
pounds you'll end by seeing that I mean friend- 
liness, and I assure you, Francie, I do," he added, 
relenting. 

Bursting with anger, but incapable of speech, 
Innes shouldered his rod, made a gesture of fare- 
well, and strode off down the burnside. Archie 
watched him go without moving. He was sorry, 
but quite unashamed. He hated to be inhos- 
pitable, but in one thing he was his father's son. 
He had a strong sense that his house was his 
own and no man else's; and to lie at a guest's 
mercy was what he refused. He hated to seem 
harsh. But that was Frank's look-out. If 
Frank had been commonly discreet, he would 
have been decently courteous. And there was 
another consideration. The secret he was pro- 
tecting was not his own merely; it was hers; it 
belonged to that inexpressible she who was fast 
taking possession of his soul, and whom he would 
soon have defended at the cost of burning cities. 
By the time he had watched Frank as far as the 

364 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

Swingleburnfoot, appearing and disappearing in 
the tarnished heather, still stalking at a fierce 
gait but already dwindled in the distance into 
less than the smallness of Lilliput, he could afford 
to smile at the occurrence. Either Frank would 
go, and that would be a relief or he would con- 
tinue to stay, and his host must continue to en- 
dure him. And Archie was now free by devi- 
ous paths, behind hillocks and in the hollow of 
burns to make for the trysting-place where 
Kirstie, cried about by the curlew and the plover, 
waited and burned for his coming by the Cove- 
nanter's stone. 

Innes went off down-hill in a passion of resent- 
ment, easy to be understood, but which yielded 
progressively to the needs of his situation. He 
cursed Archie for a cold-hearted, unfriendly, rude 
dog; and himself still more passionately for a 
fool in having come to Hermiston when he might 
have sought r fuge in almost any other house in 
Scotland, but the step once taken was practically 
irretrievable. He had no more ready money to 
go anywhere else ; he would have to borrow from 
Archie the next club-night ; and ill as he thought 
of his host's manners, he was sure of his practical 
generosity. Frank's resemblance to Talleyrand 
strikes me as imaginary; but at least not Talley- 
rand himself could have more obediently taken 
his lesson from the facts. He met Archie at 
dinner without resentment, almost with cordial- 
ity. You must take your friends as you find 

365 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

them, he would have said. Archie couldn't help 
being his father's son, or his grandfather's, the 
hypothetical weaver's, grandson. The son of a 
hunks, he was still a hunks at heart, incapable 
of true generosity and consideration; but he had 
other qualities with which Frank could divert 
himself in the meanwhile, and to enjoy which it 
was necessary that Frank should keep his temper. 
So excellently was it controlled that he awoke 
next morning with his head full of a different, 
though a cognate subject. What was Archie's 
little game? Why did he shun Frank's company? 
What was he keeping secret? Was he keeping 
tryst with somebody, and was it a woman? It 
would be a good joke and a fair revenge to dis- 
cover. To that task he set himself with a great 
deal of patience, which might have surprised 
his friends, for he had been always credited not 
with patience so much as brilliancy; and little 
by little, from one point to another, he at last 
succeeded in piecing out the situation. First 
he remarked that, although Archie set out in all 
the directions of the compass, he always came 
home again from some point between the south 
and west. From the study of a map, and in con- 
sideration of the great expanse of untenanted 
moorland running in that direction towards the 
sources of the Clyde, he laid his finger on Cauld- 
staneslap and two other neighbouring farms, 
Kingsmuirs and Polintarf. But it was difficult 
to advance farther. With his rod for a pretext, 

366 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

he vainly visited each of them in turn ; nothing 
was to be seen suspicious about this trinity of 
moorland settlements. He would have tried to 
follow Archie, had it been the least possible, but 
the nature of the land precluded the idea. He 
did the next best, ensconced himself in a quiet 
corner, and pursued his movements with a tele- 
scope. It was equally in vain, and he soon 
wearied of his futile vigilance, left the telescope 
at home, and had almost given the matter up 
in despair, when, on the twenty-seventh day of 
his visit, he was suddenly confronted with the 
person whom he sought. The first Sunday Kir- 
stie had managed to stay away from kirk on 
some pretext of indisposition, which was more 
truly modesty ; the pleasure of beholding Archie 
seeming too sacred, too vivid for that public 
place. On the two following, Frank had himself 
been absen^ on some of his excursions among 
the neighbouring families. It was not until the 
fourth, accordingly, that Frank had occasion to 
set eyes on the enchantress. With the first look, 
all hesitation was over. She came with the 
Cauldstaneslap party; then she lived at Cauld- 
staneslap. Here was Archie's secret, here was 
the woman, and more than that though I have 
need here of every manageable attenuation of 
language with the first look, he had already 
entered himself as rival. It was a good deal in 
pique, it was a little in revenge, it was much in 
genuine admiration: the devil may decide the 

367 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

proportions; I cannot, and it is very likely that 
Frank could not. 

"Mighty attractive milkmaid," he observed, 
on the way home. 

' : Who ? ' ' said Archie. 

"0, the girl you're looking at aren't you? 
Forward there on the road. She came attended 
by the rustic bard; presumably, therefore, be- 
longs to his exalted family. The single objec- 
tion! for the four Black Brothers are awkward 
customers. If anything were to go wrong, Gib 
would gibber, and Clem would prove inclement ; 
and Dand fly in danders, and Hob blow up in 
gobbets. It would be a Helliott of a business I" 

"Very humorous, I am sure," said Archie. 

"Well, I am trying to be so," said Frank. 
" It's none too easy in this place, and with your 
solemn society, my dear fellow. But confess 
that the milkmaid has found favour in your eyes 
or resign all claim to be a man of taste." 

"It is no matter," returned Archie. 

But the other continued to look at him, stead- 
ily and quizzically, and his colour slowly rose 
and deepened under the glance, until not im- 
pudence itself could have denied that he was 
blushing. And at this Archie lost some of his 
control. He changed his stick from one hand 
to the other, and "0, for God's sake, don't be 
an ass!" he cried. 

"Ass? That's the retort delicate without 
doubt," says Frank. " Beware of the homespun 

368 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

brothers, dear. If they come into the dance, 
you'll see who's an ass. Think now, if they only 
applied (say) a quarter as much talent as I have 
applied to the question of what Mr. Archie does 
with his evening hours, and why he is so unaffect- 
edly nasty when the subject's touched on " 

"You are touching on it now," interrupted 
Archie, with a wince. 

"Thank you. That was all I wanted, an ar- 
ticulate confession," said Frank. 

"I beg to remind you " began Archie. 

But he was interrupted in turn. "My dear 
fellow, don't. It's quite needless. The sub- 
ject's dead and buried." 

And Frank began to talk hastily on other mat- 
ters, an art in which he was an adept, for it was 
bis gift to be fluent on anything or nothing. But 
although Archie had the grace or the timidity to 
suffer him to rattle on, he was by no means done 
with the subject. When he came home to din- 
ner, he was greeted with a sly demand, how 
things were looking " Cauldstaneslap ways." 
Frank took his first glass of port out after din- 
ner to the toast of Kirstie, and later in the even- 
ing he returned to the charge again. 

"I say, Weir, you'll excuse me for returning 
again to this affair. I've been thinking it over, 
and I wish to beg you very seriously to be more 
careful. It's not a safe business. Not safe, my 
boy," said he. 

"What? "said Archie. 
369 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

"Well, it's your own fault if I must put a 
name on the thing; but really, as a friend, I can- 
not stand by and see you rushing head down into 
these dangers. My dear boy," said he, holding 
up a warning cigar, "consider what is to be the 
end of it?" 

"The end of what?" Archie, helpless with 
irritation, persisted in this dangerous and un- 
gracious guard. 

"Well, the end of the milkmaid; or, to speak 
more by the card, the end of Miss Christina 
Elliott of the Cauldstaneslap?" 

"I assure you," Archie broke out, "this is all 
a figment of your imagination. There is noth- 
ing to be said against that young lady; you have 
no right to introduce her name into the conver- 
sation." 

"I'll make a note of it," said Frank. "She 
shall henceforth be nameless, nameless, nameless, 
Gregarach ! I make a note besides of your valu- 
able testimony to her character. I only want 
to look at this thing as a man of the world. Ad- 
mitted she's an angel but, my good fellow, is 
she a lady?" 

This was torture to Archie. "I beg your 
pardon," he said, struggling to be composed, 
" but because you have wormed yourself into my 
confidence ' ' 

'* Oh, come 1 " cried Frank. "Your confidence? 
It was rosy but unconsenting. Your confidence, 
indeed! Now, look! This is what I must say, 

370 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

Weir, for it concerns your safety and good char- 
acter, and therefore my honour as your friend. 
You say I wormed myself into your confidence. 
Wormed is good. But what have I done? I 
have put two and two together, just as the par- 
ish will be doing to-morrow, and the whole of 
Tweeddale in two weeks, and the Black Brothers 
well, I won't put a date on that ; it will be a 
dark and stormy morning. Your secret, in other 
words, is poor Poll's. And I want to ask of you 
as a friend whether you like the prospect? There 
are two horns to your dilemma, and I must say 
for my self I should look mighty ruefully on either. 
Do you see yourself explaining to the four Black 
Brothers? or do you see yourself presenting the 
milkmaid to papa as the future lady of Hermis- 
ton? Do you? I tell you plainly, I don't." 

Archie rose. "I will hear no more of this," 
he said in a trembling voice. 

But Frank again held up his cigar. "Tell me 
one thing first. Tell me if this is not a friend's 
part that I am playing?" 

" I believe you think it so," replied Archie. " I 
can go as far as that. I can do so much justice 
to your motives. But I will hear no more of it. 
I am going to bed." 

"That's right, Weir," said Frank, heartily. 
"Go to bed and think over it; and I say, man, 
don't forget your prayers! I don't often do the 
moral don't go in for that sort of thing but 
when I do there's one thing sure, that I mean it." 

371 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

So Archie marched off to bed, and Frank sat 
alone by the table for another hour or so, smiling 
to himself richly. There was nothing vindictive 
in his nature; but, if revenge came in his way, it 
might as well be good, and the thought of Archie's 
pillow reflections that night was indescribably 
sweet to him. He felt a pleasant sense of power. 
He looked down on Archie as on a very little 
boy whose strings he pulled as on a horse whom 
he had backed and bridled by sheer power of 
intelligence, and whom he might ride to glory 
or the grave at pleasure. Which was it to be? 
He lingered long, relishing the details of schemes 
that he was too idle to pursue. Poor cork upon 
a torrent, he tasted that night the sweets of 
omnipotence, and brooded like a deity over the 
strands of that intrigue which was to shatter 
him before the summer waned. 



372 




KIRSTIE had many causes of distress. More 
and more as we grow old and yet more 
and more as we grow old and are women, frozen 
by the fear of age we come to rely on the voice 
as the single outlet of the soul. Only thus, in 
the curtailment of our means, can we relieve the 
straitened cry of the passion within us; only thus, 
in the bitter and sensitive shyness of advancing 
years, can we maintain relations with those viva- 
cious figures of the young that still show before 
us, and tend daily to become no more than the 
moving wall-paper of life. Talk is the last link, 
the last relation. But with the end of the con- 
versation, when the voice stops and the bright 
face of the listener is turned away, solitude falls 
again on the bruised heart. Kirstie had lost 
her "cannie hour at e'en"; she could no more 
wander with Archie, a ghost, if you will, but a 
happy ghost, in fields Elysian. And to her it 
was as if the whole world had fallen silent; to 
him, but an unremarkable change of amuse- 
ments. And she raged to know it. The effer- 

373 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

vescency rf her passionate and irritable nature 
rose within her at times to bursting point. 

This is the price paid by age for unseasonable 
ardours of feeling. It must have been so for 
Kirstie at any time when the occasion chanced; 
but it so fell out that she was deprived of this 
delight in the hour when she had most need of 
it, when she had most to say, most to ask, and 
when she trembled to recognise her sovereignty 
not merely in abeyance but annulled. For, with 
the clairvoyance of a genuine love, she had 
pierced the mystery that had so long embar- 
rassed Frank. She ^as conscious, even before 
it was carried out, even on that Sunday night 
when it began, of an invasion of her rights; and 
a voice told her the invader's name. Since then, 
by arts, by accident, by small things observed, 
and by the general drift of Archie's humour, she 
had passed beyond all possibility of doubt. With 
a sense of justice that Lord Hermiston might 
have envied, she had that day in church con- 
sidered and admitted the attractions of the 
younger. Kirstie ; and with the profound human- 
ity and sentimentality of her nature, she had 
recognised the coming of fate. Not thus would 
she have chosen. She had seen, in imagination, 
Archie wedded to some tall, powerful, and rosy 
heroine of the golden locks, made in her own 
image, for whom she would have strewed the 
bride-bed with delight; and now she could have 
wept to see the ambition falsified. But the 

374 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

gods had pronounced, and her doom was other- 
wise. 

She lay tossing in bed that night, besieged with 
feverish thoughts. There were dangerous mat- 
ters pending, a battle was toward, over the fate 
of which she hung in jealousy, sympathy, fear, 
and alternate loyalty and disloyalty to either 
side. Now she was reincarnated in her niece, 
and now in Archie. Now she" saw, through the 
girl's eyes, the youth on his knees to her, heard 
his persuasive instances with a deadly weakness, 
and received his over-mastering caresses. Anon, 
with a revulsion, her temper raged to see such 
utmost favours of fortune and love squandered 
on a brat of a girl, one of her own house, using 
her own name a deadly ingredient and that 
"didna ken her ain mind an' was as black's your 
hat.'* Now she trembled lest her deity should 
plead in vain, loving the idea of success for him 
like a triumph of nature; anon, with returning 
loyalty to her own family and sex, she trembled 
for Kirstie and the credit of the Elliotts. And 
again she had a vision of herself, the day over 
for her old-world tales and local gossip, bidding 
farewell to her last link with life and brightness 
and love; and behind and beyond, she saw but 
the blank butt-end where she must crawl to die. 
Had she then come to the lees? she, so great, so 
beautiful, with a heart as fresh as a girl's and 
strong as womanhood? It could not be, and 
yet it was so; and for a moment her bed was 

375 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

horrible to her as the sides of the grave. And 
she looked forward over a waste of hours, and 
saw herself go on to rage, and tremble, and be 
softened, and rage again, until the day came and 
the labours of the day must be renewed. 

Suddenly she heard feet on the stairs his feet, 
and soon after the sound of a window-sash flung 
open. She sat up with her heart beating. He 
had gone to his room alone, and he had not gone 
to bed. She might again have one of her night 
cracks; and at the entrancing prospect, a change 
came over her mind; with the approach of this 
hope of pleasure, all the baser metal became 
immediately obliterated from her thoughts. She 
rose, all woman, and all the best of woman, ten- 
der, pitiful, hating the wrong, loyal to her own 
sex and all the weakest of that dear miscellany, 
nourishing, cherishing next her soft heart, voice- 
lessly flattering, hopes that she would have died 
sooner than have acknowledged. She tore off 
her nightcap, and her hair fell about her shoul- 
ders in profusion. Undying coquetry awoke. 
By the faint light of her nocturnal rush, she stood 
before the looking-glass, carried her shapely arms 
above her head, and gathered up the treasures 
of her tresses. She was never backward to ad- 
mire herself; that kind of modesty was a stranger 
to her nature; and she paused, struck with a 
pleased wonder at the sight. "Ye daft auld 
wife I" she said, answering a thought that was 
not ; and she blushed with the innocent conscious- 

376 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

ness of a child. Hastily she did up the massive 
and shining coils, hastily donned a wrapper, and 
with the rush-light in her hand, stole into the 
hall. Below stairs she heard the clock ticking 
the deliberate seconds, and Frank jingling with 
the decanters in the dining-room. Aversion rose 
in her, bitter and momentary. " Nesty, tippling 
puggy!" she thought; and the next moment she 
had knocked guardedly at Archie's door and was 
bidden enter. 

Archie had been looking out into the ancient 
blackness, pierced here and there with a rayless 
star; taking the sweet air of the moors and the 
night into his bosom deeply; seeking, perhaps 
finding, peace after the manner of the unhappy. 
He turned round as she came in, and showed her 
a pale face against the window-frame. 

"Is that you, Kirstie?" he asked. "Come 
in!" 

"It's unco' late, my dear," said Kirstie, affect- 
ing unwillingness. 

" No, no," he answered, " not at all. Come in, 
if you want a crack. I am not sleepy, God 
knows!" 

She advanced, took a chair by the toilet-table 
and the candle, and set the rush-light at her foot. 
Something it might be in the comparative dis- 
order of her dress, it might be the emotion that 
now welled in her bosom had touched her with 
a wand of transformation, and she seemed young 
with the youth of goddesses. 

377 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

"Mr. Erchie," she began, "what's this that's 
come to ye?" 

"I am not aware of anything that has come," 
said Archie, and blushed and repented bitterly 
that he had let her in. 

"Oh, my dear, that'll no dae!" said Kirstie. 
"It's ill to blind the eyes of love. Oh, Mr. Er- 
chie, tak' a thocht ere it's ower late. Ye should- 
na be impatient o' the braws o' life, they'll a' 
come in their saison, like the sun and the rain. 
Ye're young yet; ye've mony cantie years afore 
ye. See and dinna wreck yersel' at the outset like 
sae mony ithers! Hae patience they telled me 
aye that was the owercome o' life hae patience, 
there's a braw day coming yet. Gude kens it 
never cam' to me ; and here I am wi' nayther man 
nor bairn to ca' my ain, wearyin' a' folks wi' my 
ill tongue, and you just the first, Mr. Erchie!" 

"I have a difficulty in knowing what you 
mean," said Archie. 

"Weel, and I'll tell ye," she said. "It's just 
this, that I'm feared. I'm feared for ye, my 
dear. Remember, your farther is a hard man, 
reapin' where he hasna sowed and gaitherin' 
where he hasna strawed. It's easy speakin', 
but mind! Ye'll have to look in the gurry face 
o'm, where it's ill to look, and vain to look for 
mercy. Ye mind me o' a bonny ship pitten oot 
into the black and gowsty seas ye're a' safe 
still, sittin' quait and crackin' wi' Kirstie in your 
lown charmer; but whaur will ye be the morn, 

378 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

and in whatten horror o' the fearsome tempest, 
cryin' on the hills to cover ye?" 

"Why, Kirstie, you're very enigmatical to- 
night and very eloquent," Archie put in. 

"And, my dear Mr. Erchie," she continued, 
with a change of voice, "ye mauna think that I 
canna sympathise wi' ye. Ye mauna think that 
I havena been young mysel'. Lang syne, when I 

was a bit lassie, no' twenty yet ' ' She paused 

and sighed. "Clean and caller, wi' a fit like 
the hinney bee," she continued. "I was aye 
big and buirdly, ye maun understand; a bonny 
figure o' a woman, though I say it that suldna 
built to rear bairns braw bairns they suld hae 
been, and grand I would hae likit it! But I was 
young, dear, wi' the bonny glint o' youth in my 
e'en, and little I dreamed I'd ever be tellin' ye 
this, an auld, lanely, rudas wife! Weel, Mr. 
Erchie, there was a lad cam' courtin' me, as was 
but naetural. Mony had come before, and I 
would nane o' them. But this yin had a tongue 
to wile the birds frae the lift and the bees frae 
the foxglove bells. Deary me, but it's lang 
syne. Folk have dee'd sinsyne and been buried, 
and are forgotten, and bairns been born and 
got men-it and got bairns o' their ain. Sinsyne 
woods have been plantit, and have grawn up and 
are bonny trees, and the joes sit in their shadow, 
and sinsyne auld estates have changed hands, 
and there have been wars and rumours of wars 
on the face of the earth. And here I'm still 

379 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

like an auld droopit craw lookin' on and craik- 
in'. But, Mr. Erchie, do ye no' think that I 
have mind o' it a' still? I was dwallin' then in 
my faither's house; and it's a curious thing that 
we were whiles trysted in the Deil's Hags. And 
do ye no' think that I have mind of the bonny 
simmer days, the lang miles, o' the bluid-red 
heather, the cryin' o' the whaups, and the lad 
and the lassie that was trysted? Do ye no' think 
that I mind how the hilly sweetness ran about 
my hairt? Ay, Mr. Erchie, I ken the way o' it 
fine do I ken the way how the grace o' God 
takes them like Paul of Tarsus, when they think 
o' it least, and drives the pair o' them into a 
land which is like a dream, and the world and 
the folks in't are nae mair than clouds to the 
puir lassie, and Heeven nae mair than windle- 
straes, if she can but pleesure him! Until Tarn 
dee'd that was my story," she broke off to say, 
* ' he dee'd, and I wasna at the buryin' . But while 
he was here, I could take care o' mysel'. And 
can yon puir lassie?" 

Kirstie, her eyes shining with unshed tears, 
stretched out her hand towards him appealingly ; 
the bright and the dull gold of her hair flashed 
and smouldered in the coils behind her comely 
head, like the rays of an eternal youth; the pure 
colour had risen in her face; and Archie was 
abashed alike by her beauty and her story. He 
came towards her slowly from the window, took 
up her hand in his and kissed it. 

380 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

"Kirstie," he said hoarsely, "you have mis- 
judged me sorely. I have always thought of 
her, I wouldna harm her for the universe, my 
woman." 

"Eh, lad, and that's easy sayin'," cried Kir- 
stie, "but it's nae sae easy doin'I Man, do ye 
no' comprehend that it's God's wull we should 
be blendit and glamoured, and have nae com- 
mand over our ain members at a time like that? 
My bairn," she cried, still holding his hand, 
"think o' the puir lass! have pity upon her, 
Erchie! and O, be wise for twa! Think o' the 
risk she rins! I have seen ye, and what's to 
prevent ithers? I saw ye once in the Hags, in 
my ain howl, and I was wae to see ye there in 
pairt for the omen, for I think there's a weird 
on the place and in pairt for puir nakit envy 
and bitterness o' hairt. It's strange ye should 
forgather there tae ! God ! but yon puir, thrawn, 
auld Covenanter's seen a heap o' human natur 
since he lookit his last on the musket-barrels, if 
he never saw nane afore," she added with a kind 
of wonder in her eyes. 

"I swear by my honour I have done her no 
wrong," said Archie. "I swear by my honour 
and the redemption of my soul that there shall 
none be done her. I have heard of this before. 
I have been foolish, Kirstie, not unkind and, 
above all, not base." 

" There's my bairn! " said Kirstie, rising. " I'll 
can trust ye noo, I'll can gang to my bed wi' an 

381 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

easy hairt." And then she saw in a flash how 
barren had been her triumph. Archie had prom- 
ised to spare the girl, and he would keep it ; but 
who had promised to spare Archie? What was 
to be the end of it? Over a maze of difficulties 
she glanced, and saw, at the end of every passage, 
the flinty countenance of Hermiston. And a 
kind of horror fell upon her at what she had done. 
She wore a tragic mask. "Erchie, the Lord 
peety you, dear, and peety me! I have buildit 
on this foundation," laying her hand heavily on 
his shoulder "and buildit hie, and pit my hairt 
in the buildin' of it. If the hale hypothec were 
to fa', I think, laddie, I would dee I Excuse a 
daft wife that loves ye, and that kenned your 
mither. And for His name's sake keep yersel' 
frae inordinate desires; haud your hairt in baith 
your hands, carry it canny and laigh; dinna send 
it up like a bairn's kite into the collieshangie o' 
the wunds! Mind, Maister Erchie dear, that 
this life's a disappointment, and a mouthfu' o' 
mools is the appointed end." 

"Ay, but Kirstie, my woman, you're asking 
me ower much at last," said Archie, profoundly 
moved, and lapsing into the broad Scots. " Ye're 
asking what nae man can grant ye, what only 
the Lord of heaven can grant ye if He see fit. 
Ay! And can even He? I can promise ye what 
I shall do, and you can depend on that. But 
how I shall feel my woman, that is long past 
thinking of!" 

382 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

They were both standing by now opposite 
each other. The face of Archie wore the wretch- 
ed semblance of a smile ; hers was convulsed for 
a moment. 

"Promise me ae thing," she cried, in a sharp 
voice. "Promise me ye'll never do naething 
without telling me." 

"No, Kirstie, I canna promise ye that," he 
replied. "I have promised enough, God kensT' 

"May the blessing of God lift and rest upon 
ye, dear!" she said. 

"God bless ye, my old friend," said he. 



383 



CHAPTER IX 
AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 

IT was late in the afternoon when Archie drew 
near by the hill path to the Praying Weaver's 
Stone. The Hags were in shadow. But still, 
through the gate of the Slap, the sun shot a last 
arrow, which sped far and straight across the 
surface of the moss, here and there touching and 
shining on a tussock, and lighted at length on 
the gravestone and the small figure awaiting him 
there. The emptiness and solitude of the great 
moors seemed to be concentrated there, and Kir- 
stie pointed out by that figure of sunshine for 
the only inhabitant. His first sight of her was 
thus excruciatingly sad, like a glimpse of a world 
from which all light, comfort, and society were 
on the point of vanishing. And the next mo- 
ment, when she had turned her face to him and 
the quick smile had enlightened it, the whole 
face of nature smiled upon him in her smile of 
welcome. Archie's slow pace was quickened ; his 
legs hasted to her though his heart was hanging 
back. The girl, upon her side, drew herself to- 
gether slowly and stood up, expectant; she was 

384 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 

all languor, her face was gone white; her arms 
ached for him, her soul was on tip-toes. But he 
deceived her, pausing a few steps away, not less 
white than herself, and holding up his hand with 
a gesture of denial. 

"No, Christina, not to-day," he said. "To- 
day I have to talk to you seriously. Sit ye down, 
please, there where you were. Please!" he re- 
peated. 

The revulsion of feeling in Christina's heart 
was violent. To have longed and waited these 
weary hours for him, rehearsing her endearments 
to have seen him at last come to have been 
ready there, breathless, wholly passive, his to 
do what he would with and suddenly to have 
found herself confronted with a grey-faced, harsh 
schoolmaster it was too rude a shock. She 
could have wept, but pride withheld her. She 
sat down on the stone, from which she had arisen, 
part with the instinct of obedience, part as 
though she had been thrust there. What was 
this? Why was she rejected? Had she ceased 
to please? She stood here offering her wares, 
and he would none of them! And yet they were 
all his! His to take and keep, not his to refuse 
though! In her quick petulant nature, a mo- 
ment ago on fire with hope, thwarted love and 
wounded vanity wrought. The schoolmaster 
that there is in all men, to the despair of all girls 
and most women, was now completely in pos- 
session of Archie. He had passed a night of 

385 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

sermons; a day of reflection; he had come wound 
up to do his duty; and the set mouth, which in 
him only betrayed the effort of his will, to her 
seemed the expression of an averted heart. It 
was the same with his constrained voice and em- 
barrassed utterance ; and if so if it was all over 
the pang of the thought took away from her 
the power of thinking. 

He stood before her some way off. " Kirstie, 
there's been too much of this. We've seen too 
much of each other." She looked up quickly 
and her eyes contracted. " There's no good ever 
comes of these secret meetings. They're not 
frank, not honest truly, and I ought to have seen 
it. People have begun to talk ; and it's not right 
of me. Do you see?" 

"I see somebody will have been talking to 
ye," she said sullenly. . 

"They have, more than one of them," replied 
Archie. 

"And whae were they?" she cried. "And 
what kind o' love do ye ca' that, that's ready to 
gang round like a whirligig at folk talking? Do 
ye think they havena talked to me?" 

"Have they indeed? " said Archie, with a quick 
breath. "That is what I feared. Who were 
they? Who has dared " 

Archie was on the point of losing his tem- 
per. 

As a matter of fact, not any one had talked 
to Christina on the matter; and she strenuously 

386 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 

repeated her own first question in a panic of self- 
defence. 

"Ah, well! what does it matter?" he said. 
"They were good folk that wished well to us, 
and the great affair is that there are people talk- 
ing. My dear girl, we have to be wise. We 
must not wreck our lives at the outset. They 
may be long and happy yet, and we must see to 
it, Kirstie, like God's rational creatures and not 
like fool children. There is one thing we must 
see to before all. You're worth waiting for, Kir- 
stie! worth waiting for a generation; it would 
be enough reward." And here he remembered 
the schoolmaster again, and very unwisely took 
to following wisdom. "The first thing that we 
must see to, is that there shall be no scandal 
about, for my father's sake. That would ruin all ; 
do ye no' see that?" 

Kirstie was a little pleased, there had been 
some show of warmth of sentiment in what 
Archie had said last. But the dull irritation 
still persisted in her bosom; with the aboriginal 
instinct, having suffered herself, she wished to 
make Archie suffer. 

And besides, there had come out the word she 
had always feared to hear from his lips, the name 
of his father. It is not to be supposed that, dur- 
ing so many days with a love avowed between 
them, some reference had not been made to their 
conjoint future. It had in fact been often 
touched upon, and from the first had been the 

387 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

sore point. Kirstie had wilfully closed the eye 
of thought ; she would not argue even with her- 
self; gallant, desperate little heart, she had ac- 
cepted the command of that supreme attraction 
like the call of fate and marched blindfold on her 
doom. But Archie, with his masculine sense of 
responsibility, must reason; he must dwell on 
some future good, when the present good was 
all in all to Kirstie; he must talk and talk 
lamely, as necessity drove him of what was to 
be. Again and again he had touched on mar- 
riage ; again and again been driven back into in- 
distinctness by a memory of Lord Hermiston. 
And Kirstie had been swift to understand and 
quick to choke down and smother the under- 
standing ; swift to leap up in flame at a mention of 
that hope, which spoke volumes to her vanity and 
her love, that she might one day be Mrs. Weir 
of Hermiston; swift, also, to recognise in his 
stumbling or throttled utterance the death-knell 
of these expectations, and constant, poor girl! 
in her large-minded madness, to go on and to reck 
nothing of the future. But these unfinished ref- 
erences, these blinks in which his heart spoke, 
and his memory and reason rose up to silence it 
before the words were well uttered, gave her 
unqualifiable agony. She was raised up and 
dashed down again bleeding. The recurrence of 
the subject forced her, for however short a time, 
to open her eyes on what she did not wish to 
see; and it had invariably ended in another dis- 

388 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 

appointment. So now again, at the mere wind 
of its coming, at the mere mention of his father's 
name who might seem indeed to have accom- 
panied them in their whole moorland courtship, 
an awful figure in a wig with an ironical and bit- 
ter smile, present to guilty consciousness she 
fled from it head down. 

"Ye havena told me yet," she said, "who was 
it spoke?" 

"Your aunt for one," said Archie. 

"Auntie Kirstie?" she cried. "And what do 
I care for my Auntie Kirstie?" 

"She cares a great deal for her niece," replied 
Archie, in kind reproof. 

"Troth, and it's the first I've heard of it," 
retorted the girl. 

" The question here is not who it is, but what 
they say, what they have noticed," pursued the 
lucid schoolmaster. "That is what we have 
to think of in self-defence." 

" Auntie Kirstie, indeed ! A bitter, thrawn auld 
maid that's fomented trouble in the country be- 
fore I was born, and will be doing it still, I daur 
say, when I'm deid! It's in her nature; it's as 
natural for her as it's for a sheep to eat." 

"Pardon me, Kirstie, she was not the only 
one," interposed Archie. "I had two warnings, 
two sermons, last night, both most kind and con- 
siderate. Had you been there, I promise you you 
would have grat, my dear! And they opened 
my eyes. I saw we were going a wrong way." 

389 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

"Who was the other one?" Kirstie demanded. 

By this time Archie was in the condition of a 
hunted beast. He had come, braced and reso- 
lute; he was to trace out a line of conduct for 
the pair of them in a few cold, convincing sen- 
tences; he had now been there some time, and 
he was still staggering round the outworks and 
undergoing what he felt to be a savage cross- 
examination. 

"Mr. Frank!" she cried. "What nex', I 
would like to ken?" 

"He spoke most kindly and truly." 

" What like did he say?" 

" I am not going to tell you; you have nothing 
to do with that," cried Archie, startled to find 
he had admitted so much. 

"Oh, I have naething to do with it!" she re- 
peated, springing to her feet. " A'body at Her- 
miston's free to pass their opinions upon me, but 
I have naething to do wi' it ! Was this at pray- 
ers like? Did ye ca' the grieve into the consulta- 
tion? Little wonder if a'body's talking, when 
ye make a'body ye're confidants! But as you 
say, Mr. Weir, most kindly, most considerate- 
ly, most truly, I'm sure, I have naething to do 
with it. And I think I'll better be going. I'll 
be wishing you good-evening, Mr. Weir." And 
she made him a stately curtsey, shaking as she 
did so from head to foot, with the barren ecstasy 
of temper. 

Poor Archie stood dumbfounded. She had 
390 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 

moved some steps away from him before he re- 
covered the gift of articulate speech. 

" Kirstie ! " he cried. " Oh, Kirstie woman ! " 
There was in his voice a ring of appeal, a 
clang of mere astonishment that showed the 
schoolmaster was vanquished. 

She turned round on him. "What do ye 
Kirstie me for?" she retorted. "What have ye 
to do wi' me? Gang to your ain freends and 
deave them!" 

He could only repeat the appealing " Kirstie! " 
" Kirstie, indeed! " cried the girl, her eyes blaz- 
ing in her white face. " My name is Miss Chris- 
tina Elliott, I would have ye to ken, and I daur 
ye to ca' me out of it. If I canna get love, I'll 
have respect, Mr. Weir. I'm come of decent 
people, and I'll have respect. What have I 
done that ye should lightly me? What have 
I done? What have I done? Oh, what have I 
done?" and her voice rose upon the third repeti- 
tion. " I thocht I thocht I thocht I was sae 
happy!" and the first sob broke from her like 
the paroxysm of some mortal sickness. 

Archie ran to her. He took the poor child 
in his arms, and she nestled to his breast as to 
a mother's, and clasped him in hands that were 
strong like vices. He felt her whole body shaken 
by the throes of distress, and had pity upon her 
beyond speech. Pity, and at the same time a 
bewildered fear of this explosive engine in his 
arms, whose works he did not understand, and 

391 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

yet had been tampering with. There arose from 
before him the curtains of boyhood, and he saw 
for the first time the ambiguous face of woman 
as she is. In vain he looked back over the in- 
terview; he saw not where he had offended. It 
seemed unprovoked, a wilful convulsion of brute 
nature. 



392 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

TT 7TTH the words last printed, " a wilful convulsion of brute na- 
T ture," the romance of Weir of Hermiston breaks off. They 
were dictated, I believe, on the very morning of the writer's sud- 
den seizure and death. Weir of Hermiston thus remains in the 
work of Stevenson what Edw in Drood is in the work of Dickens, or 
Denis Duval in that of Thackeray: or rather it remains relatively 
more, for if each of those fragments holds an honourable place 
among its author's writings, among Stevenson's the fragment of 
Weir holds certainly the highest. 

Readers may be divided in opinion on the question whether 
they would or they would not wish to hear more of the intended 
course of the story and destinies of the characters. To some, 
silence may seem best, and that the mind should be left to its own 
conjectures as to the sequel, with the help of such indications as 
the text affords. I confess that this is the view which has my 
sympathy. But since others, and those almost certainly a ma- 
jority, are anxious to be told all they can, and since editors and 
publishers join in the request, I can scarce do otherwise than 
comply. The intended argument, then, so far as it was known 
at the time of the writer's death to his step-daughter and devoted 
amanuensis, Mrs. Strong, was nearly as follows: 

Archie persists in his good resolution of avoiding further con- 
duct compromising to young Kirstie's good name. Taking 
advantage of the situation thus created, and of the girl's unhappi- 
ness and wounded vanity, Frank Innes pursues his purpose of 
seduction; and Kirstie, though still caring for Archie in her heart, 
allows herself to become Frank's victim. Old Kirstie is the first 
to perceive something amiss with her, and believing Archie to be 
the culprit, accuses him, thus making him aware for the first 

393 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

time that mischief has happened. He does not at once deny the 
charge, but seeks out and questions young Kirstie, who con- 
fesses the truth to him; and he, still loving her, promises to pro- 
tect and defend her in her trouble. He then has an interview 
with Frank Innes on the moor, which ends in a quarrel and in 
Archie killing Frank beside the Weaver's Stone. Meanwhile 
the Four Black Brothers, having become aware of their sister's 
betrayal, are bent on vengeance against Archie as her supposed 
seducer. They are about to close in upon him with this purpose, 
when he is arrested by the officers of the law for the murder of 
Frank. He is tried before his own father, the Lord Justice-Clerk, 
found guilty, and condemned to death. Meanwhile the elder 
Kirstie, having discovered from the girl how matters really stand, 
informs her nephews of the truth: and they, in a great revulsion 
of feeling in Archie's favour, determine on an action after the 
ancient manner of their house. They gather a following, and 
after a great fight break the prison where Archie lies confined, 
and rescue him. He and young Kirstie thereafter escape to 
America. But the ordeal of taking part in the trial of his own 
son has been too much for the Lord Justice-Clerk, who dies of 
the shock. "I do not know," adds the amanuensis, "what be- 
comes of old Kirstie, but that character grew and strengthened 
so in the writing that I am sure he had some dramatic destiny 
for her." 

The plan of every imaginative work is subject, of course, to 
change under the artist's hand as he carries it out; and not merely 
the character of the elder Kirstie, but other elements of the design 
no less, might well have deviated from the lines originally traced. 
It seems certain, however, that the next stage in the relations of 
Archie and the younger Kirstie would have been as above fore- 
shadowed ; this conception of the lover's unconventional chivalry 
and unshaken devotion to his mistress after her fault is very 
characteristic of the author's mind. The vengeance to be taken 
on the seducer beside the Weaver's Stone is prepared for in the 
first words of the Introduction: while the situation and fate of the 
judge, confronting like a Brutus, but unable to survive, the duty 
of sending his own son to the gallows, seems clearly to have been 
destined to furnish the climax and essential tragedy of the tale. 

394 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

How this circumstance was to have been brought about within 
the limits of legal usage and social possibility, seems hard to 
conjecture; but it was a point to which the author had evidently 
given careful consideration. Mrs. Strong says simply that the 
Lord Justice-Clerk, like an old Roman, condemns his son to 
death; but I am assured on the best legal authority of Scotland, 
that no judge, however powerful either by character or office, 
could have insisted on presiding at the trial of a near kinsman of 
his own. The Lord Justice-Clerk was head of the criminal jus- 
ticiary of the country ; he might have insisted on his right of being 
present on the bench when his son was tried; but he would never 
have been allowed to preside or to pass sentence. Now in a letter 
of Stevenson's to Mr. Baxter, of October, 1892, 1 find him asking 
for materials in terms which seem to indicate that he knew this 
quite well: "I wish Pitcairn's 'Criminal Trials,' quam primum. 
Also an absolutely correct text of the Scots judiciary oath. Also, 
in case Pitcairn does not come down late enough, I wish as full a 
report as possible of a Scots murder trial between 1790-1820. 
Understand, the fullest possible. Is there any book which would 
guide me to the following facts? The Justice-Clerk tries some 
people capitally on circuit. Certain evidence cropping up, the 
charge is transferred to the Justice-Clerk's own son. Of course 
in the next trial the Justice-Clerk is excluded, and the case is 
called before the Lord Justice-General. Where would this trial 
have to be? I fear in Edinburgh, which would not suit my view. 
Could it be again at the circuit town?" The point was referred 
to a quondam fellow-member with Stevenson of the Edinburgh 
Speculative Society, Mr. Graham Murray, the present Solicitor- 
General for Scotland, whose reply was to the effect that there 
would be no difficulty in making the new trial take place at the 
circuit town: that it would have to be held there in spring or 
autumn, before two Lords of Justiciary; and that the Lord 
Justice-General would have nothing to do with it, this title be- 
ing at the date in question only a nominal one held by a lay- 
man (which is no longer the case). On this Stevenson writes, 
"Graham Murray's note re the venue was highly satisfactory, 
and did me all the good in the world." The terms of his inquiry 
seem to imply that he intended other persons, before Archie, to 
have fallen first under suspicion of the murder; and also doubtless 

395 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

in order to make the rescue by the Black Brothers possible that 
he wanted Archie to be imprisoned not in Edinburgh but in the 
circuit town. But they do not show how he meant to get over 
the main difficulty, which at the same time he fully recognises. 
Can it have been that Lord Hermiston's part was to have been 
limited to presiding at the first trial, where the evidence incrimi- 
nating Archie was unexpectedly brought forward, and to directing 
that the law should take its course? 

Whether the final escape and union of Archie and Christina 
would have proved equally essential to the plot may perhaps to 
some readers seem questionable. They may rather feel that a 
tragic destiny is foreshadowed from the beginning for all con- 
cerned, and is inherent in the very conditions of the tale. But 
on this point, and other matters of general criticism connected 
with it, I find an interesting discussion by the author himself in 
his correspondence. Writing to Mr. J. M. Barrie, under date 
November 1, 1892, and criticising that author's famous story, 
of The Little Minister, Stevenson says: 

"Your descriptions of your dealings with Lord Rintoul are 
frightfully unconscientious. . . . The Little Minister ought 
to have ended badly; we all know it did, and we are infinitely 
grateful to you for the grace and good feeling with which you 
have lied about it. If you had told the truth, I for one could 
never have forgiven you. As you had conceived and written 
the earlier parts, the truth about the end, though indisputably 
true to fact, would have been a lie, or what is worse, a discord in 
art. If you are going to make a book end badly, it must end 
badly from the beginning. Now, your book began to end well. 
You let yourself fall in love with, and fondle, and smile at your 
puppets. Once you had done that, your honour was committed 
at the cost of truth to life you were bound to save them. It 
is the blot on Richard Feverel for instance, that it begins to end 
well; and then tricks you and ends ill. But in this case, there is 
worse behind, for the ill ending does not inherently issue from the 
plot the story had, in fact, ended well after the great last in- 
terview between Richard and Lucy, and the blind, illogical 
bullet which smashes all has no more to do between the boards 
than a fly has to do with a room into whose open window it comes 
buzzing. It might have so happened; it needed not; and unless 

396 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

needs must, we have no right to pain our readers. I have had a 
heavy case of conscience of the same kind about my Braxfield 
story. Braxfield only his name is Hermiston has a son who is 
condemned to death; plainly there is a fine tempting fitness about 
this and I meant he was to hang. But on considering my minor 
characters, I saw there were five people who would in a sense, 
who must break prison and attempt his rescue. They are capa- 
ble hardy folks too, who might very well succeed. Why should 
they not then? Why should not young Hermiston escape clear 
out of the country? and be happy, if he could, with his but soft! 
I will not betray my secret nor my heroine. . . ." 

To pass, now, from the question how the story would have 
ended to the question how it originated and grew in the writer's 
mind. The character of the hero, Weir of Hermiston, is avowed- 
ly suggested by the historical personality of Robert Macqueen, 
Lord Braxfield. This famous judge has been for generations 
the subject of a hundred Edinburgh tales and anecdotes. Read- 
ers of Stevenson's essay on the Raeburn exhibition in Virginibus 
Puerisque, will remember how he is fascinated by Raeburn's 
portrait of Braxfield, even as Lockhart had been fascinated by 
a different portrait of the same worthy sixty years before (see 
Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk) ; nor did his interest in the charac- 
ter diminish in later life. 

Again, the case of a judge involved by the exigencies of his 
office in a strong conflict between public duty and private inter- 
est or affection, was one which had always attracted and exer- 
cised Stevenson's imagination. In the days when he and Mr. 
Henley were collaborating with a view to the stage, Mr. Henley 
once proposed a plot founded on the story of Mr. Justice Har- 
bottle hi Sheridan Le Fanu's In a Glass Darkly, in which the 
wicked judge goes headlong per fas et nefas to his object of get- 
ting the husband of his mistress hanged. Some time later 
Stevenson and his wife together wrote a play called The Hanging 
Judge. In this, the title character is tempted for the first time 
in his life to tamper with the course of justice, in order to shield 
his wife from persecution by a former husband who reappears 
after being supposed dead. Bulwer's novel of Paul Clifford, 
with its final situation of the worldly-minded judge, Sir William 
Brandon, learning that the highwayman whom he is in the act 

397 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

of sentencing is his own son, and dying of the knowledge, was 
also well known to Stevenson, and no doubt counted for some- 
thing in the suggestion of the present story. 

Once more, the difficulties often attending the relation of 
father and son in actual life had pressed heavily on Stevenson's 
mind and conscience from the days of his youth, when in obey- 
ing the law of his own nature he had been constrained to disap- 
point, distress, and for a time to be much misunderstood by, a 
father whom he justly loved and admired with all his heart- 
Difficulties of this kind he had already handled in a lighter vein 
once or twice in fiction as for instance in the Story of a Lie and 
hi The Wrecker before he grappled with them in the acute and 
tragic phase in which they occur in the present story. 

These three elements, then, the interest of the historical per- 
sonality of Lord Braxfield, the problems and emotions arising 
from a violent conflict between duty and nature in a judge, and 
the difficulties due to incompatibility and misunderstanding be- 
tween father and son, lie at the foundations of the present story. 
To touch on minor matters, it is perhaps worth notice, as Mr. 
Henley reminds me, that the name of Weir had from of old a 
special significance for Stevenson's imagination, from the tradi- 
tional fame in Edinburgh of Major Weir, burned as a warlock, 
together with his sister, under circumstances of peculiar atrocity. 
Another name, that of the episodical personage of Mr. Torrance 
the minister, is borrowed direct from life, as indeed are the whole 
figure and its surroundings kirkyard, kirk, and manse down 
even to the black thread mittens: witness the following passage 
from a letter of the early seventies: "I've been to church and 
am not depressed a great step. It was at that beautiful church 
[of Glencorse in the Pentlands, three miles from his father's coun- 
try home at Swanston]. It is a little cruciform place, with a 
steep slate roof. The small kirkyard is full of old gravestones; 
one of a Frenchman from Dunkerque, I suppose he died prisoner 
in the military prison hard by. And one, the most pathetic 
memorial I ever saw: a poor school-slate, in a wooden frame, 
with the inscription cut into it evidently by the father's own 
hand. In church, old Mr. Torrance preached, over eighty and 
a relic of times forgotten, with his black thread gloves, and mild 
old face." A side hint for a particular trait in the character of 

398 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

Mrs. Weir we can trace in some family traditions concerning the 
writer's own grandmother, who is reported to have valued piety 
much more than efficiency in her domestic servants. The other 
women characters seem, so far as his friends know, to have been 
pure creation, and especially that new and admirable incarna- 
tion of the eternal feminine in the elder Kirstie. The little that 
he says about her himself is in a letter written a few days before 
his death to Mr. Gosse. The allusions are to the various moods 
and attitudes of people in regard to middle age, and are suggested 
by Mr. Gosse's volume of poems, In Russet and Silver, "It 
seems rather funny," he writes, "that this matter should come 
up just now, as I am at present engaged in treating a severe case 
of middle age in one of my stories, The Justice-Clerk. The case 
is that of a woman, and I think I am doing her justice. You 
will be interested, I believe, to see the difference in our treat- 
ments. Secreta Vitae [the title of one of Mr. Gosse's poems] 
comes nearer to the case of my poor Kirstie." From the won- 
derful midnight scene between her and Archie, we may judge 
what we have lost in those later scenes where she was to have 
taxed him with the fault that was not his to have presently 
learned his innocence from the lips of his supposed victim to 
have then vindicated him to her kinsmen and fired them to the 
action of his rescue. The scene of the prison-breaking here 
planned by Stevenson would have gained interest (as will already 
have occurred to readers) from comparison with the two famous 
precedents in Scott, the Porteous mob, and the breaking of Por- 
tanferry Jail. 

The best account of Stevenson's methods of imaginative work 
is in the following sentences from a letter of his own to Mr. W. 
Craibe Angus of Glasgow: "I am still a 'slow study,' and sit for 
a long while silent on my eggs. Unconscious thought, there is 
the only method: macerate your subject, let it boil slow, then 
take the lid off and look in and there your stuff is good or bad." 
The several elements above noted having been left to work for 
many years in his mind, it was in the autumn of 1892 that he was 
moved to "take the lid off and look in," under the influence, it 
would seem, of a special and overmastering wave of that feeling 
for the romance of Scottish scenery and character which was at 
all times so strong in him, and which his exile did so much to in- 

399 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

tensify. I quote again from his letter to Mr. Barrie on Novem- 
ber 1st in that year: " It is a singular thing that I should live here 
in the South Seas under conditions so new and so striking, and 
yet my imagination so continually inhabit the cold old huddle of 
grey hills from which we come. I have finished David Balfour, I 
have another book on the stocks, The Young Chevalier, which is 
to be part hi France and part hi Scotland and to deal with Prince 
Charlie about the year 1749; and now what have I done but be- 
gun a third, which is to be all moorland together, and is to have 
for a centre-piece a figure that I think you will appreciate that 
of the immortal Braxfield. Braxfield himself is my grand pre- 
mier or since you are so much involved in the British drama, 
let me say my heavy lead." 

Writing to me at the same date he makes the same announce- 
ment more briefly, with a list of the characters and an indication 
of the scene and date of the story. To Mr. Baxter he writes a 
month later, " I have a novel on the stocks to be called The Justice- 
Clerk. It is pretty Scotch; the grand premier is taken from 
Braxfield (0, by the by, send me Cockburn's Memorials), and 
some of the story is, well, queer. The heroine is seduced by one 
man, and finally disappears with the other man who shot him. 
. . . Mind you, I expect The Justice-Clerk to be my master- 
piece. My Braxfield is already a thing of beauty and a joy for 
ever, and so far as he has gone far my best character." From 
the last extract it appears that he had already at this date drafted 
some of the earlier chapters of the book. He also about the same 
time composed the dedication to his wife, who found it pinned 
to her bed-curtains one morning on awaking. It was always his 
habit to keep several books in progress at the same time, turning 
from one to another as the fancy took him, and finding rest in the 
change of labour; and for many months after the date of this 
letter, first illness, then a voyage to Auckland, then work on 
the Ebb-Tide, on a new tale called St. Ives, which was begun dur- 
ing an attack of influenza, and on his projected book of family 
history, prevented his making any continuous progress with 
Weir. In August, 1893, he says he has been recasting the begin- 
ning. A year later, still only the first four or five chapters had 
been drafted. Then, in the last weeks of his life, he attacked the 
task again, in a sudden heat of inspiration, and worked at it 

400 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

ardently and without interruption until the end came. No 
wonder if during those weeks he was sometimes aware of a tension 
of the spirit difficult to sustain. "How can I keep this pitch?" 
he is reported to have said after finishing one of the chapters. 
To keep the pitch proved indeed beyond his strength; and that 
frail organism, taxed so long and so unsparingly in obedience to 
his indomitable will, at last betrayed him in mid effort. 

There remains one more point to be mentioned, as to the speech 
and manners of the Hanging Judge himself. That these are not 
a whit exaggerated, in comparison with what is recorded of his 
historic prototype, Lord Braxfield, is certain. The locus classicus 
in regard to this personage is in Lord Cockburn's Memorials of 
his Time. "Strong built and dark, with rough eyebrows, power- 
ful eyes, threatening lips, and a low growling voice, he was like a 
formidable blacksmith. His accent and dialect were exaggerated 
Scotch; his language, like his thoughts, short, strong, and con- 
clusive. Illiterate and without any taste for any refined enjoy- 
ment, strength of understanding which gave him power without 
cultivation, only encouraged him to a more contemptuous disdain 
of all natures less coarse than his own. It may be doubted if he 
was ever so much in his element as when tauntingly repelling the 
last despairing claim of a wretched culprit, and sending him to 
Botany Bay or the gallows with an insulting jest. Yet this was 
not from cruelty, for which he was too strong and too jovial, but 
from cherished coarseness." Readers, nevertheless, who are at 
all acquainted with the social history of Scotland will hardly fail 
to have made the observation that Braxfield's is an extreme case 
of eighteenth-century manners, as he himself was an eighteenth- 
century personage (he died in 1799 in his seventy-eighth year) ; 
and that for the date in which the story is cast (1814) such man- 
ners are somewhat of an anachronism. During the generation 
contemporary with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic 
wars, or to put it another way, the generation that elapsed be- 
tween the days when Scott roamed the country as a High School 
and University student and those when he settled in the fulness 
of fame and prosperity at Abbotsford, or again (the allusions 
will appeal to readers of the admirable Gait) during the intervals 
between the first and the last provostry of Bailie Pawkie in the 
borough of Gudetown, or between the earlier and the final minis- 

401 



trations of Mr. Balwhidder in the parish of Dalmailing, during 
this period a great softening had taken place in Scottish manners 
generally, and in those of the Bar and Bench not least. "Since 
the death of Lord Justice-Clerk Macqueen of Braxfield," says 
Lockhart, writing about 1817, "the whole exterior of judicial de- 
portment has been quite altered." A similar criticism may 
probably hold good on the picture of border life contained in the 
chapter concerning the Four Black Brothers of Cauldstaneslap, 
viz., that it rather suggests the ways of an earlier generation; nor 
have I any clew to the reasons which led Stevenson to choose this 
particular date, in the year preceding Waterloo, for a story which, 
in regard to some of its features at least, might seem more natu- 
rally placed some twenty-five or thirty years before. 

If the reader seeks, further, to know whether the scenery of 
Hermiston can be identified with any one special place familiar to 
the writer's early experience, the answer, I think, must be in the 
negative. Rather it is distilled from a number of diff erent haunts 
and associations among the moorlands of southern Scotland. In 
the dedication and hi a letter to me he indicates the Lammermuirs 
as the scene of his tragedy, and Mrs. Stevenson (his mother) tells 
me that she thought he was inspired by recollections of a visit 
paid in boyhood to an uncle living at a remote farmhouse in that 
district called Overshiels, in the parish of Stow. But although 
he may have thought of the Lammermuirs in the first instance, 
we have already found him drawing his description of the kirk 
and manse from another haunt of his youth, namely, Glencorse 
in the Pentlands. And passages in chapters v. and viii. point 
explicitly to a third district, that is, the country bordering upon 
Upper Tweeddale, with the country stretching thence to the head- 
waters of the Clyde. With this country also holiday rides and 
excursions from Peebles had made him familiar as a boy: and this 
seems certainly the most natural scene of the story, if only from 
its proximity to the proper home of the Elliotts, which of course 
is in the heart of the Border, especially Teviotdale and Ettrick. 
Some of the geographical names mentioned are clearly not meant 
to furnish literal indications. The Spango, for instance, is a 
water running, I believe, not into the Tweed but into the Nith, 
and Crossmichael as the name of a town is borrowed from 
Galloway; but it may be taken to all intents and purposes as 

402 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

standing for Peebles, where I am told by Sir George Douglas 
there existed in the early years of the century a well-known club 
of the same character as that described in the story. Lastly, 
the name of Hermiston itself is taken from a farm on the Water 
of Ale, between Ettrick and Teviotdale, and close to the proper 
country of the Elliotts. 

But it is with the general and essential that the artist deals, and 
questions of strict historical perspective or local definition are 
beside the mark in considering his work. Nor will any reader 
expect, or be grateful for, comment in this place on matters which 
are more properly to the point on the seizing and penetrating 
power of the author's ripened art as exhibited in the foregoing 
pages, the wide range of character and emotion over which he 
sweeps with so assured a hand, his vital poetry of vision and 
magic of presentment. Surely no son of Scotland has died leav- 
ing with his last breath a worthier tribute to the land he loved. 

SIDNEY COLVIN. 



403 



GLOSSARY 



ae, one. 

antinomian, one of a sect which 
holds that under the Gospel 
dispensation the moral law is 
not obligatory. 

Auld Homie, the Devil. 

ballant, ballad. 

bauchles, brogues, old shoes. 

bees in their bonnet, eccentric- 
ities. 

billing, whirling. 

black-a-vised, dark-complex- 
ioned. 

bonnet-laird, small landed pro- 
prietor, yeoman. 

bool, ball, technically, marble; 
here, sugar-plum. 

brae, rising ground. 

brig, bridge. 

buff, play buff on, to make a 
fool of, to deceive. 

burn, stream. 

butt end, end of a cottage. 

byre, cow-house. 

ca', drive. 
caller, fresh. 
canna, cannot. 
canny, careful, shrewd. 
cantie, cheerful. 



carline, an old woman. 
chalmer, chamber. 
claes, clothes. 
clamjamfry, crowd. 
clavers, idle talk. 
cock-laird, a yeoman. 
collieshangie, turmoil. 
crack, to converse. 
cuddy, donkey. 
cuist, cast. 
cutty, slut. 

daft, mad, frolicsome. 

dander, to saunter. 

danders, cinders. 

daurna, dare not. 

deave, to deafen. 

demmy brokens, demi-broquins. 

denty, dainty. 

dirdum, vigour. 

disjaskit , worn-out, disreputable- 
looking. 

doer, law agent. 

dour, hard. 

drumlie, dark. 

dunting, knocking. 

dule-tree, the tree of lamenta- 
tion, the hanging tree: dule is 
also Scots for boundary, and 
it may mean the boundary 



405 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 



tree, the tree on which the 
baron hung interlopers. 
dwaibly, infirm, rickety. 

earrand, errand. 
ettercap, vixen. 

fechting, fighting. 

feck, quantity, portion. 

feckless, feeble, powerless. 

fell, strong and fiery. 

fey, unlike yourself, strange, as 

persons are observed to be in 

the hour of approaching death 

or disaster. 
fit, foot. 
flit, to depart. 
flyped, turned up, turned inside 

out. 

forbye, in addition to. 
fower, four. 

forgather, to fall in with. 
fule, fool. 

fiishionless, pithless, weak. 
fyle, to soil, to defile. 
fylement, obloquy, defilement. 

gaed, went. 

gang, to go. 

gey an', very. 

gigot, leg of mutton. 

girzie, lit., diminutive of Grizel; 

here, a playful nickname. 
glaur, mud. 
glint, glance, sparkle. 
gloaming, twilight. 
glower, to scowl. 
gobbets, small lumps. 
gowden, golden. 
gowsty, gusty. 



grat, wept. 

grieve, land-steward. 

guddle, to catch fish with the 
hands by groping under the 
stones or banks. 

guid, good. 

gumption, common-sense, judg- 
ment. 

gurley, stormy, surly. 

gyte, beside itself. 

haddit, held. 

hae, have, take. 

hale, whole. 

heels-ower-hurdie, heels over 
head. 

hinney, honey. 

hirstle, to bustle. 

hizzie, wench. 

howe, hovel. 

hunkered, crouched. 

hypothec, lit., a term in Scots 
law meaning the security given 
by a tenant to a landlord, as 
furniture, produce, etc.; by 
metonymy and colloquially, 
"the whole structure," "the 
whole affair." 

idleset, idleness. 

infeftment, a term in Scots law 

originally synonymous with 

investiture. 

jaud, jade. 

jeely-piece, a slice of bread and 

jelly. 

jennipers, juniper. 
jo, sweetheart. 



406 



GLOSSARY 



justifeed, executed, made the vic- 
tim of justice. 
jyle, jail 

kebbuck, cheese. 
ken, to know. 
kenspeckle, conspicuous. 
kilted, tucked up. 
kyte, belly. 

laigh, low. 

laird, landed proprietor. 

lane, alone. 

lave, rest, remainder. 

lown, lonely, still 

lynn, cataract. 

Lyon King of Anno, the chief 

of the Court of Heraldry in 

Scotland. 

macers, officers of the supreme 
court [cf. Guy Manner ing, last 
chapter]. 

maun, must. 

menseful, of good manners. 

mirk, dark. 

misbegowk, deception, disap- 
pointment. 

mools, mould, earth. 

muckle, much, great, big. 

my lane, by myself. 

nowt, black cattle. 

palmering, walking infirmly. 
panel, in Scots law, the accused 

person in a criminal action, 

the prisoner. 

peel, a fortified watch-tower. 
plew-stilts, plough-handles. 



policy, ornamental grounds of a 

country mansion. 
puddock, frog. 

quean, wench. 

rair, to roar. 
riff-raff, rabble. 
lisping, grating. 
rowt, to roar, to rant. 
rowth, abundance. 
rudas, haggard old woman. 
runt, an old cow past breeding, 
opprobriously, an old woman. 

sab, sob. 

sanguishes, sandwiches. 

sasine, in Scots law, the act of 
giving legal possession of 
feudal property, or, colloqui- 
ally, the deed by which that 
possession is proved. 

sclamber, to scramble. 

sculduddery, impropriety, gross- 
ness. 

session, the Court of Session, the 
supreme court of Scotland. 

shauchling, shuffling. 

shoo, to chase gently. 

siller, money. 

sinsyne, since then. 

skailing, dispersing. 

skelp, slap. 

skirling, screaming. 

skreigh-o'-day, daybreak. 

snash, abuse. 

sneisty, supercilious. 

sooth, to hum. 

sough, sound, murmur. 

Spec., The Speculative Society, 



407 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 



a debating society connected 
with Edinburgh University. 

speir, to ask. 

speldering, sprawling. 

splairge, to splash. 

spunk, spirit, fire. 

steik, to shut. 

sugar-bool, sugar-plum. 

syne, since. 

tawpie, a slow foolish slut. 

telling you, a good thing for you. 

thir, these. 

thrawn, cross-grained. 

toon, town. 

two-names, local sobriquets in 

addition to patronymic. 
tyke, dog. 



unchancy, unlucky. 

unco, strange, extraordinary, 

very. 
upsitten, impertinent. 

vivers, victuals. 

wae, sad, unhappy. 
waling, choosing. 
warrandise, warranty. 
waur, worse. 
weird, destiny. 
whammle, to upset. 
whaup, curlew. 
windlestrae, crested dog's-tail 

grass. 
wund, wind. 

yin, one. 



408 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

A FRAGMENT 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

PROLOGUE THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE . 413 

CHAPTER 

I. THE PRINCE . .... . . .427 

EDITORIAL NOTE 431 



411 



PROLOGUE 
THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 




HERE was a wine-seller's shop, 
as you went down to the river in 
the city of the Anti-popes. There 
a man was served with good wine 
of the country and plain country 
fare; and the place being clean 
and quiet, with a prospect on the river, certain 
gentlemen who dwelt in that city in attendance 
on a great personage made it a practice (when 
they had any silver in their purses) to come and 
eat there and be private. 

They called the wine-seller Paradou. He was 
built more like a bullock than a man, huge in 
bone and brawn, high in colour, and with a hand 
like a baby for size. Marie-Madeleine was the 
name of his wife ; she was of Marseilles, a city of 
entrancing women, nor was any fairer than her- 
self. She was tall, being almost of a height with 
Paradou ; full-girdled, point-device in every form, 
with an exquisite delicacy in the face; her nose 
and nostrils a delight to look at from the fine- 
ness of the sculpture, her eyes inclined a hair's- 

413 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

breadth inward, her colour between dark and 
fair, and laid on even like a flower's. A faint 
rose dwelt in it, as though she had been found 
unawares bathing, and had blushed from head 
to foot. She was of a grave countenance, rarely 
smiling; yet it seemed to be written upon every 
part of her that she rejoiced in life. Her hus- 
band loved the heels of her feet and the knuckles 
of her fingers; he loved her like a glutton and a 
brute; his love hung about her like an atmos- 
phere; one that came by chance into the wine- 
shop was aware of that passion ; and it might be 
said that by the strength of it the woman had 
been drugged or spell-bound. She knew not if she 
loved or loathed him; he was always in her eyes 
like something monstrous monstrous in his 
love, monstrous in his person, horrific but im- 
posing in his violence; and her sentiment swung 
back and forward from desire to sickness. But 
the mean, where it dwelt chiefly, was an apathet- 
ic fascination, partly of horror; as of Europa in 
mid-ocean with her bull. 

On the 10th November, 1749, there sat two of 
the foreign gentlemen in the wine-seller's shop. 
They were both handsome men of a good pres- 
ence, richly dressed. The first was swarthy 
and long and lean, with an alert, black look, and 
a mole upon his cheek. The other was more 
fair. He seemed very easy and sedate, and a 
little melancholy for so young a man, but his 
smile was charming. In his grey eyes there 

414 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

was much abstraction, as of one recalling fondly 
that which was past and lost. Yet there was 
strength and swiftness in his limbs; and his 
mouth set straight across his face, the under lip 
a thought upon side, like that of a man accus- 
tomed to resolve. These two talked together in 
a rude outlandish speech that no frequenter of 
that wine-shop understood. The swarthy man 
answered to the name of Ballantrae; he of the 
dreamy eyes was sometimes called Balmile, and 
sometimes my Lord, or my Lord Gladsmuir; but 
when the title was given him, he seemed to put 
it by as if in jesting, not without bitterness. 

The mistral blew in the city. The first day 
of that wind, they say in the'countries where its 
voice is heard, it blows away all the dust, the 
second all the stones, and the third it blows back 
others from the mountains. It was now come to 
the third day; outside the pebbles flew like hail, 
and the face of the river was puckered, and the 
very building-stones in the walls of houses seem- 
ed to be curdled, with the savage cold and fury 
of that continuous blast. It could be heard to 
hoot in all the chimneys of the city; it swept 
about the wine-shop, filling the room with eddies ; 
the chill and gritty touch of it passed between 
the nearest clothes and the bare flesh; and the 
two gentlemen at the far table kept their man- 
tles loose about their shoulders. The roughness 
of these outer hulls, for they were plain travel- 
lers' cloaks that had seen service, set the greater 

415 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

mark of richness on what showed below of their 
laced clothes; for the one was in scarlet and the 
other in violet and white, like men come from a 
scene of ceremony; as indeed they were. 

It chanced that these fine clothes were not 
without their influence on the scene which fol- 
lowed, and which makes the prologue of our tale. 
For a long time Balmile was in the habit to come 
to the wine-shop and eat a meal or drink a meas- 
ure of wine; sometimes with a comrade; more 
often alone, when he would sit and dream and 
drum upon the table, and the thoughts would 
show in the man's face in little glooms and light- 
enings, like the sun and the clouds upon a water. 
For a long time Marie-Madeleine had observed 
him apart. His sadness, the beauty of his smile 
when by any chance he remembered her existence 
and addressed her, the changes of his mind sig- 
nalled forth by an abstruse play of feature, the 
mere fact that he was foreign and a thing de- 
tached from the local and the accustomed, in- 
sensibly attracted and affected her. Kindness 
was ready in her mind; it but lacked the touch 
of an occasion to effervesce and crystallise. Now, 
Balmile had come hitherto in a very poor plain 
habit; and this day of the mistral, when his 
mantle was just open, and she saw beneath it the 
glancing of the violet and the velvet and the sil- 
ver, and the clustering fineness of the lace, it 
seemed to set the man in a new light, with which 
he shone resplendent to her fancy. 

416 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

The high inhuman note of the wind, the vio- 
lence and continuity of its outpouring, and the 
fierce touch of it upon man's whole periphery, 
accelerated the functions of the mind. It set 
thoughts whirling, as it whirled the trees of the 
forest; it stirred them up in flights, as it stirred 
up the dust in chambers. As brief as sparks, 
the fancies glittered and succeeded each other in 
the mind of Marie-Madeleine; and the grave man 
with the smile, and the bright clothes under the 
plain mantle, haunted her with incongruous ex- 
planations. She considered him the unknown, 
the speaker of an unknown tongue, the hero (as 
she placed him) of an unknown romance, the 
dweller upon unknown memories. She recalled 
him sitting there alone, so immersed, so stupe- 
fied; yet she was sure he was not stupid. She 
recalled one day when he had remained a long 
time motionless, with parted lips, like one in the 
act of starting up, his eyes fixed on vacancy. 
Any one else must have looked foolish; but not 
he. She tried to conceive what manner of mem- 
ory had thus entranced him; she forged for him 
a past; she showed him to herself in every light 
of heroism and greatness and misfortune; she 
brooded with petulant intensity on all she knew 
and guessed of him. Yet, though she was al- 
ready gone so deep, she was still unashamed, 
still unalarmed; her thoughts were still disin- 
terested ; she had still to reach the stage at which 
beside the image of that other whom we love 

417 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

to contemplate and to adorn we place the im- 
age of ourself and behold them together with de- 
light. 

She stood within the counter, her hands clasp- 
ed behind her back, her shoulders pressed against 
the wall, her feet braced out. Her face was 
bright with the wind and her own thoughts; as 
a fire in a similar day of tempest glows and 
brightens on a hearth, so she seemed to glow, 
standing there, and to breathe out energy. It 
was the first time Ballantrae had visited that 
wine-seller's, the first time he had seen the wife ; 
and his eyes were true to her. 

" I perceive your reason for carrying me to this 
very draughty tavern," he said at last. 

" I believe it is propinquity," returned Balmile. 

"You play dark," said Ballantrae, "but have 
a care! Be more frank with me, or I will cut 
you out. I go through no form of qualifying 
my threat, which would be commonplace and not 
conscientious. There is only one point in these 
campaigns : that is the degree of admiration offer- 
ed by the man; and to our hostess I am in a pos- 
ture to make victorious love." 

" If you think you have the time, or the game 
worth the candle," replied the other, with a 
shrug. 

"One would suppose you were never at the 
pains to observe her," said Ballantrae. 

"I am not very observant," said Balmile. 
"She seems comely." 

418 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

"You very dear and dull dog!" cried Ballan- 
trae; "chastity is the most besotting of the vir- 
tues. Why, she has a look in her face beyond 
singing! I believe, if you were to push me hard, 
I might trace it home to a trifle of a squint. 
What matters? The height of beauty is in the 
touch that's wrong, that's the modulation in a 
tune. 'Tis the devil we all love; I owe many a 
conquest to my mole " he touched it as he spoke 
with a smile, and his eyes glittered; "we are all 
hunchbacks, and beauty is only that kind of de- 
formity that I happen to admire. But come! 
Because you are chaste, for which I am sure I pay 
you my respects, that is no reason why you 
should be blind. Look at her, look at the deli- 
cious nose of her, look at her cheek, look at her 
ear, look at her hand and wrist look at her 
whole baggage from heels to crown, and tell me 
if she wouldn't melt on a man's tongue." 

As Ballantrae spoke, half jesting, half enthu- 
siastic, Balmile was constrained to do as he was 
bidden. He looked at the woman, admired her 
excellences, and was at the same time ashamed 
for himself and his companion. So it befell that 
when Marie-Madeleine raised her eyes, she met 
those of the subject of her contemplations fixed 
directly on herself with a look that is unmistak- 
able, the look of a person measuring and valuing 
another, and, to clench the false impression, 
that his glance was instantly and guiltily with- 
drawn. The blood beat back upon her heart 

419 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

and leaped again; her obscure thoughts flashed 
clear before her; she flew in fancy straight to his 
arms like a wanton, and fled again on the in- 
stant like a nymph. And at that moment there 
chanced an interruption, which not only spared 
her embarrassment, but set the last consecration 
on her now articulate love. 

Into the wine-shop there came a French gen- 
tleman, arrayed in the last refinement of the 
fashion, though a little tumbled by his passage in 
the wind. It was to be judged he had come from 
the same formal gathering at which the others 
had preceded him; and perhaps that he had gone 
there in the hope to meet with them, for he came 
up to Ballantrae with unceremonious eager- 
ness. 

"At last, here you are!" he cried in French. 
"I thought I was to miss you altogether." 

The Scotsmen rose, and Ballantrae, after the 
first greetings, laid his hand on his companion's 
shoulder. 

"My Lord," said he, "allow me to present to 
you one of my best friends and one of our best 
soldiers, the Lord Viscount Gladsmuir." 

The two bowed with the elaborate elegance 
of the period. 

" Monseigneur" said Balmile, "je rfai pas la 
pretention de m' affubkr d'un litre que la mauvaise 
fortune de mon roi ne me permet pas de porter 
comme il sied. Je m'appelk, pour vous servir, Blair 
de Balmile tout court." ("My Lord, I have not 

420 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

the effrontery to cumber myself with a title 
which the ill fortunes of my king will not suffer 
me to bear the way it should be. I call myself, 
at your service, plain Blair of Balmile.") 

"Monsieur le Vicomte ou Monsieur Bier 1 de 
Balma'il," replied the new-comer, "le nom n'y 
fait rien t et Von connait vos beaux fails " ("The 
name matters nothing; your gallant actions are 
known.") 

A few more ceremonies, and these three, sit- 
ting down together to the table, called for wine. 
It was the happiness of Marie-Madeleine to wait 
unobserved upon the prince of her desires. She 
poured the wine, he drank of it; and that link 
between them seemed to her, for the moment, 
close as a caress. Though they lowered their 
tones, she surprised great names passing in their 
conversation, names of kings, the names of de 
Gesvre and Belle-Isle ; and the man who dealt in 
these high matters, and she who was now coupled 
with him in her own thoughts, seemed to swim 
in mid-air in a transfiguration. Love is a crude 
core, but it has singular and far-reaching fringes ; 
in that passionate attraction for the stranger 
that now swayed and mastered her, his harsh in- 
comprehensible language and these names of 
grandees in his talk, were each an element. 

The Frenchman stayed not long, but it was 
plain he left behind him matter of much interest 
to his companions ; they spoke together earnestly, 
their heads down, the woman of the wine-shop 

421 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

totally forgotten; and they were still so occupied 
when Paradou returned. 

This man's love was unsleeping. The even 
bluster of the mistral, with which he had been 
combating some hours, had not suspended, 
though it had embittered, that predominant 
passion. His first look was for his wife, a look 
of hope and suspicion, menace and humility and 
love, that made the over-blooming brute appear 
for the moment almost beautiful. She returned 
his glance, at first as though she knew him not, 
then with a swiftly waxing coldness of intent; 
and at last, without changing their direction, 
she had closed her eyes. 

There passed across her mind during that pe- 
riod much that Paradou could not have under- 
stood had it been told to him in words: chiefly 
the sense of an enlightening contrast betwixt 
the man who talked of kings and the man who 
kept a wine-shop, betwixt the love she yearned 
for and that to which she had been long exposed 
like a victim bound upon the altar. There swel- 
led upon her, swifter than the Rhone, a tide of 
abhorrence and disgust. She had succumbed 
to the monster, humbling herself below animals; 
and now she loved a hero, aspiring to the semi- 
divine. It was in the pang of that humiliating 
thought that she had closed her eyes. 

Paradou quick, as beasts are quick, to trans- 
late silence felt the insult through his blood; 
his inarticulate soul bellowed within him for re- 

422 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

venge. He glanced about the shop. He saw 
the two indifferent gentlemen deep in talk, and 
passed them over: his fancy flying not so high. 
There was but one other present, a country lout 
who stood swallowing his wine, equally unob- 
served by all and unobserving; to him he dealt 
a glance of murderous suspicion, and turned di- 
rect upon his wife. The wine-shop had lain 
hitherto, a space of shelter, the scene of a few 
ceremonial passages and some whispered conver- 
sation, in the howling river of the wind; the clock 
had not yet ticked a score of times since Para- 
dou's appearance; and now, as he suddenly 
gave tongue, it seemed as though the mistral 
had entered at his heels. 

"What ails you, woman? " he cried, smiting on 
the counter. 

"Nothing ails me," she replied. It was 
strange ; but she spoke and stood at that moment 
like a lady of degree, drawn upward by her as- 
pirations. 

"You speak to me, by God, as though you 
scorned me!" cried the husband. 

The man's passion was always formidable; 
she had often looked on upon its violence with a 
thrill it had been one ingredient in her fascina- 
tion; and she was now surprised to behold him, 
as from afar off, gesticulating but impotent. His 
fury might be dangerous like a torrent or a gust 
of wind, but it was inhuman; it might be feared 
or braved, it should never be respected. And 

423 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

with that there came in her a sudden glow of 
courage and that readiness to die which attends 
so closely upon all strong passions. 

"I do scorn you," she said. 

"What is that?" he cried. 

"I scorn you," she repeated, smiling. 
'You love another man!" said he. 

"With all my soul," was her reply. 

The wine-seller roared aloud so that the house 
rang and shook with it. 

" Is this the ? " he cried, using a foul word, 

common in the South; and he seized the young 
countryman and dashed him to the ground. 
There he lay for the least interval of time in- 
sensible; thence fled from the house, the most 
terrified person in the county. The heavy 
measure had escaped from his hands, splashing 
the wine high upon the wall. Paradou caught 
it. "And you?" he roared to his wife, giving 
her the same name in the feminine, and he aimed 
at her the deadly missile. She expected it, mo- 
tionless, with radiant eyes. 

But before it sped, Paradou was met by 
another adversary, and the unconscious rivals 
stood confronted. It was hard to say at that 
moment which appeared the more formidable. 
In Paradou, the whole muddy and truculent 
depths of the half-man were stirred to frenzy; 
the lust of destruction raged in him; there was 
not a feature in his face but it talked murder. 
Balmile had dropped his cloak: he shone out at 

424 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

once in his finery, and stood to his full stature; 
girt in mind and body; ah 1 his resources, all his 
temper, perfectly in command; in his face the 
light of battle. Neither spoke; there was no 
blow nor threat of one; it was war reduced to 
its last element, the spiritual; and the huge 
wine-seller slowly lowered his weapon. Balmile 
was a noble, he a commoner; Balmile exulted in 
an honourable cause. Paradou already perhaps 
began to be ashamed of his violence. Of a sud- 
den, at least, the tortured brute turned and 
fled from the shop, in the footsteps of his former 
victim, to whose continued flight his reappear- 
ance added wings. 

So soon as Balmile appeared between her 
husband and herself, Marie-Madeleine trans- 
ferred to him her eyes. It might be her last 
moment, and she fed upon that face; reading 
there inimitable courage and illimitable valour 
to protect. And when the momentary peril 
was gone by, and the champion turned a little 
awkwardly towards her whom he had rescued, 
it was to meet, and quail before, a gaze of ad- 
miration more distinct than words. He bowed, 
he stammered, his words failed him; he who had 
crossed the floor a moment ago, like a young god, 
to smite, returned like one discomfited: got some- 
how to his place by the table, muffled himself 
again in his discarded cloak, and for a last touch 
of the ridiculous, seeking for anything to restore 
his countenance, drank of the wine before him, 

425 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

deep as a porter after a heavy lift. It was little 
wonder if Ballantrae, reading the scene with 
malevolent eyes, laughed out loud and brief, and 
drank with raised glass, "To the champion of 
the Fair." 

Marie-Madeleine stood in her old place within 
the counter; she disdained the mocking laughter; 
it fell on her ears, but it did not reach her spirit. 
For her, the world of living persons was all re- 
sumed again into one pair, as in the days of 
Eden; there was but the one end in life, the one 
hope before her, the one thing needful, the one 
thing possible, to be his. 



426 



CHAPTER I 

THE PRINCE 

THAT same night there was in the city of 
Avignon a young man in distress of mind. 
Now he sat, now walked in a high apartment, 
full of draughts and shadows. A single candle 
made the darkness visible; and the light scarce 
sufficed to show upon the wall, where they had 
been recently and rudely nailed, a few miniatures 
and a copper medal of the young man's head. 
The same was being sold that year in London to 
admiring thousands. The original was fair; he 
had beautiful brown eyes, a beautiful bright 
open face; a little feminine, a little hard, a little 
weak; still full of the light of youth, but already 
beginning to be vulgarised ; a sordid bloom come 
upon it, the lines coarsened with a touch of 
puffiness. He was dressed, as for a gala, in 
peach-colour and silver; his breast sparkled with 
stars and was bright with ribbons; for he had 
held a levee in the afternoon and received a dis- 
tinguished personage incognito. Now he sat 
with a bowed head, now walked precipitately to 
and fro, now went and gazed from the uncur- 

427 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

tained window, where the wind was still blowing, 
and the lights winked in the darkness. 

The bells of Avignon rose into song as he was 
gazing; and the high notes and the deep tossed 
and drowned, boomed suddenly near or were 
suddenly, swallowed up, in the current of the 
mistral. Tears sprang in the pale blue eyes; the 
expression of his face was changed to that of a 
more active misery ; it seemed as if the voices of 
the bells reached, and touched and pained him, in 
a waste of vacancy where even pain was welcome. 
Outside in the night they continued to sound on, 
swelling and fainting; and the listener heard in 
his memory, as it were, their harmonies, joy-bells 
clashing in a northern city, and the acclama- 
tions of a multitude, the cries of battle, the gross 
voices of cannon, the stridor of an animated life. 
And then all died away, and he stood face to 
face with himself in the waste of vacancy, and a 
horror came upon his mind, and a faintness on 
his brain, such as seizes men upon the brink of 
cliffs. 

On the table, by the side of the candle, stood 
a tray of glasses, a bottle, and a silver bell. He 
went thither swiftly, then his hand lowered first 
above the bell, then settled on the bottle. Slow- 
ly he filled a glass, slowly drank it out ; and, as a 
tide of animal warmth recomforted the recesses 
of his nature, stood there smiling at himself. He 
remembered he was young; the funeral curtains 
rose, and he saw his life shine and broaden and 

428 



THE PRINCE 

flow out majestically, like a river sunward. The 
smile still on his lips, he lit a second candle, 
and a third; a fire stood ready built in a chim- 
ney, he lit that also; and the fir-cones and the 
gnarled olive billets were swift to break in flame 
and to crackle on the hearth, and the room 
brightened and enlarged about him like his 
hopes. To and fro, to and fro, he went, his 
hands lightly clasped, his breath deeply and 
pleasurably taken. Victory walked with him; 
he marched to crowns and empires among shout- 
ing followers; glory was his dress. And presently 
again the shadows closed upon the solitary. 
Under the gilt of flame and candle-light, the 
stone walls of the apartment showed down bare 
and cold; behind the depicted triumph loomed 
up the actual failure: defeat, the long distress of 
the flight, exile, despair, broken followers, mourn- 
ing faces, empty pockets, friends estranged. 
The memory of his father rose in his mind: he, 
too, estranged and defied; despair sharpened into 
wrath. There was one who had led armies in the 
field, who had staked his life upon the family 
enterprise, a man of action and experience, of 
the open air, the camp, the court, the council- 
room; and he was to accept direction from an 
old, pompous gentleman in a home in Italy, and 
buzzed about by priests? A pretty king, if he 
had not a martial son to lean upon! A king at 
all? 
"There was a weaver (of all people) joined me 

429 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

at St. Ninians; he was more of a man than my 
papa!" he thought. "I saw him lie doubled in 
his blood and a grenadier below him and he 
died for my papa! All died for him, or risked 
the dying, and I lay for him all those months in 
the rain and skulked in heather like a fox; and 
now he writes me his advice! calls me Carluccio 
me, the man of the house, the only king in that 
king's race!" He ground his teeth. "The only 
king in Europe! Who else? Who has done and 
suffered except me? who has lain and run and 
hidden with his faithful subjects, like a second 
Bruce? Not my accursed cousin, Louis of 
France, at least, the lewd effeminate traitor!" 
And filling the glass to the brim, he drank a king's 
damnation. Ah, if he had the power of Louis, 
what a king were here! 

The minutes followed each other into the past, 
and still he persevered in this debilitating cycle 
of emotions, still fed the fire of his excitement 
with driblets of Rhine wine; a boy at odds with 
life, a boy with a spark of the heroic, which he 
was now burning out and drowning in futile rev- 
erie and solitary excess. 

From two rooms beyond, the sudden sound of 
a raised voice attracted him. 

"By . . . 



430 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

r I "'HE first suggestion for the story of which the above is the 
JL opening was received by the author from Mr. Andrew Lang. 
It is mentioned in Vailima Letters under date January 3, 1892. 
Writing of the subject again on March 25 of the same year, Mr. 
Stevenson speculates on the title to be chosen and the turn the 
plot is to take; and later again, towards the end of May, an- 
nounces that he has written the first "prologuial episode," that 
namely, which the reader has now before him. "There are only 
four characters," he observes: "Francis Blair of Balmile (Ja- 
cobite Lord Gladsmuir), my hero; the Master of Ballantrae; 
Paradou, a wine-seller of Avignon; Marie-Madeleine, his wife. 
These last two I am now done with, and I think they are suc- 
cessful, and I hope I have Balmile on his feet; and the style seems 
to be found. It is a little charged and violent; sins on the side 
of violence; but I think will carry the tale. I think it is a good 
idea so to introduce my hero, being made love to by an episodic 
woman." If the reader will turn to the passage, he will find more 
about the intended developments of the story, which was to 
hinge on the rescue by the Prince of a young lady from a fire at 
an inn, and to bring back upon the scene not only the Master of 
Ballantrae, but one of the author's and his readers' favourite 
characters, Alan Breck. Mr. Lang has been good enough to 
furnish the following interesting notes as to its origin: 

"The novel of The Young Chevalier," writes Mr. Lang, "of 
which only the fragment here given exists, was based on a sug- 
gestion of my own. But it is plain that Mr. Stevenson's purpose 
differed widely from my crude idea. In reading the curious 
Tales of the Century (1847), by 'John Sobieski Holberg Stuart 
and Charles Edward Stuart,' I had been struck by a long 
essay on Prince Charles's mysterious incognito. Expelled from 

431 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

France after the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, His Royal Highness, 
in December, 1748, sought refuge in the papal city of Avignon, 
whence, annoyed by English remonstrances with the Vatican, 
he vanished in the last days of February, 1749. The Jacobite 
account of his secret adventures is given in a little romance, 
purporting to be a 'Letter from Henry Goring,' his equerry, 
brother of Sir Charles Goring. I had a transcript made from 
this rather scarce old pamphlet, and sent it to Mr. Stevenson, in 
Samoa. According to the pamphlet (which is perfectly untrust- 
worthy) a mysterious stranger, probably meant for the Earl 
Marischal, came to Avignon. There came too, an equally 
mysterious Scottish exile. Charles eloped in company with 
Henry Goring (which is true), joined the stranger, travelled to a 
place near Lyons, and thence to Strasbourg, which is probable. 
Here he rescued from a fire a lovely girl, travelling alone, and 
disdained to profit by her sudden passion for 'le Comte d'Espoir, * 
his travelling-name. Moving into Germany, he was attacked 
by assassins, headed by the second mysterious stranger, a 
Scottish spy; he performs prodigies of valour. He then visits 
foreign courts, Berlin being indicated, and wins the heart of a 
lady, probably the Princess Radziwill, whom he is to marry when 
his prospects improve. All or much of this is false. Charles 
really visited Paris, by way of Dijon, and Mme. de Talmont; 
thence he went to Venice. But the stories about Berlin and 
the Polish marriage were current at the time among bewildered 
diplomatists. 1 

"My idea was to make the narrator a young Scottish Jacobite 
at Avignon. He was to be sent by Charles to seek an actual 
hidden treasure the fatal gold of the hoard buried at Loch 
Arkaig a few days after Culloden. He was to be a lover of Miss 
Clementina Walkinshaw, who later played the part of Beatrix 
Esmond to the Prince. 

"Mr. Stevenson liked something in the notion, to which he 
refers hi his Vailima Letters. He told me that Alan Breck and 
the Master of Ballantrae were to appear in the tale. I sent him 
such books about Avignon as I could collect, and he also made 
inquiries about Mandrin, the famous French brigand. Shortly 
before his death, I sent him transcripts of the unpublished letters 

1 The real facts, as far as known, are given in Pickle the Spy. [A. L.] 

432 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

of his old friend, James More Macgregor, and of Pickle the Spy, 
from the Pelham MSS. in the British Museum. But these, I 
think, arrived too late for his perusal. In Pickle he would have 
found some one not very unlike his Ballantrae. The fragment, 
as it stands, looks as if the Scottish assassin and the other mys- 
terious stranger were not to appear, or not so early as one had 
supposed. The beautiful woman of the inn and her surly hus- 
band (Mandrin?) were inventions of his own. Other projects 
superseded his interest in this tale, and deprived us of a fresh 
view of Alan Breck. His dates, as indicated in the fragment, 
are not exact; and there is no reason to believe that Charles's 
house at Avignon (that of the de Rochefort family) was dis- 
mantled and comfortless, as here represented. 

"Mr. Stevenson made, as was his habit, a list of chapter head- 
ings, which I unluckily did not keep. One, I remember, was 
'Ballantrae to the Rescue,' of whom or of what did not appear. 
It is impossible to guess how the story would have finally shaped 
itself in his fancy. One naturally regrets what we have lost, 
however great the compensation in the works which took the 
place of the sketch. Our Prince Charles of romance must re- 
main the Prince of Waverley and the King of Redgauntlet. No 
other hand now can paint him in the adventurous and mysterious 
years of 1749-59. Often, since Mr. Stevenson's death, in reading 
Jacobite MSS. unknown to me or to any one when the story was 
planned, I have thought, 'He could have done something with 
this,' or 'This would have interested him.' Eheu!" 

SIDNEY COLVIN. 



433 



HEATHERCAT 
A FRAGMENT 



CONTENTS 
PART I: THE KILLING TIME 

CHAPTEB PAGE 

I. TRAQUAIRS OF MONTROYMONT . . . 439 

II. FRANCIE 446 

III. THE HILL-END OF DRUMLOWE . . . 463 

EDITORIAL NOTE . 470 



437 



PART I 
THE KILLING-TIME 

i 

TRAQUAIRS OF MONTROYMONT 

(jP 

THE period of this tale is in the heat of the 
killing-time; the scene laid for the most part 
in solitary hills and morasses, haunted only by 
the so-called Mountain Wanderers, the dragoons 
that came in chase of them, the women that 
wept on their dead bodies, and the wild birds of 
the moorland that have cried there since the be- 
ginning. It is a land of many rain-clouds; a 
land of much mute history, written there in pre- 
historic symbols. Strange green raths are to be 
seen commonly in the country, above all by the 
kirkyards; barrows of the dead, standing stones; 
beside these, the faint, durable footprints and 
handmarks of the Roman; and an antiquity 
older perhaps than any, and still living and ac- 
tive a complete Celtic nomenclature and a 
scarce-mingled Celtic population. These rugged 
and grey hills were once included in the bounda- 
ries of the Caledonian Forest. Merlin sat here 
below his apple-tree and lamented Gwendolen; 
here spoke with Kentigern; here fell into his 

439 



HEATHERCAT 

enchanted trance. And the legend of his slum- 
ber seems to body forth the story of that Celtic 
race, deprived for so many centuries of their 
authentic speech, surviving with their ancestral 
inheritance of melancholy perversity and pa- 
tient, unfortunate courage. 

The Traquairs of Montroymont (Mons Ro- 
manus, as the erudite expound it) had long held 
their seat about the head waters of the Dule and 
in the back parts of the moorland parish of Bal- 
weary. For two hundred years they had en- 
joyed in these upland quarters a certain decency 
(almost to be named distinction) of repute; and 
the annals of their house, or what is remembered 
of them, were obscure and bloody. Ninian 
Traquair was "cruallie slochtered" by the 
Crozers at the kirk-door of Balweary, anno 1482. 
Francis killed Simon Ruthven of Drumshore- 
land, anno 1540; bought letters of slayers at 
the widow and heir, and, by a barbarous form of 
compounding, married (without tocher) Simon's 
daughter Grizzel, which is the way the Traquairs 
and Ruthvens came first to an intermarriage. 
About the last Traquair and Ruthven marriage, 
it is the business of this book, among many other 
things, to tell. 

The Traquairs were always strong for the 
Covenant; for the King also, but the Covenant 
first; and it began to be ill days for Montroy- 
mont when the Bishops came in and the dragoons 
at the heels of them. Ninian (then laird) was 

440 



TRAQUAIRS OF MONTROYMONT 

an anxious husband of himself and the property, 
as the times required, and it may be said of him 
that he lost both. He was heavily suspected of 
the Pentland Hills rebellion. When it came the 
length of Bothwell Brig, he stood his trial before 
the Secret Council, and was convicted of talking 
to some insurgents by the wayside, the subject 
of the conversation not very clearly appearing, 
and of the reset and maintenance of one Gale, a 
gardener-man, who was seen before Bothwell 
with a musket, and afterwards, for a continuance 
of months, delved the garden at Montroymont. 
Matters went very ill with Ninian at the Coun- 
cil; some of the lords were clear for treason; and 
even the boot was talked of. But he was spared 
that torture; and at last, having pretty good 
friendship among great men, he came off with a 
fine of seven thousand marks, that caused the 
estate to groan. In this case, as in so many 
others, it was the wife that made the trouble. 
She was a great keeper of conventicles; would 
ride ten miles to one, and when she was fined, 
rejoiced greatly to suffer for the Kirk; but it 
was rather her husband that suffered. She had 
their only son, Francis, baptised privately by 
the hands of Mr. Kidd; there was that much 
the more to pay forl She could neither be 
driven nor wiled into the parish kirk; as for 
taking the sacrament at the hands of any Epis- 
copalian curate, and tenfold more at those of 
Curate Haddo, there was nothing further from 

441 



HEATHERCAT 

her purposes; and Montroymont had to put his 
hand in his pocket month by month and year by 
year. Once, indeed, the little lady was cast in 
prison, and the laird, worthy, heavy, uninter- 
ested man, had to ride up and take her place; 
from which he was not discharged under nine 
months and a sharp fine. It scarce seemed she 
had any gratitude to him; she came out of jail 
herself, and plunged immediately deeper in con- 
venticles, resetting recusants, and all her old, 
expensive folly, only with greater vigour and 
openness, because Montroymont was safe in the 
Tolbooth and she had no witness to consider. 
When he was liberated and came back, with his 
fingers singed, in December, 1680, and late in 
the black night, my lady was from home. He 
came into the house at his alighting, with a 
riding-rod yet in his hand ; and, on the servant- 
maid telling him, caught her by the scruff of the 
neck, beat her violently, flung her down in the 
passageway, and went up-stairs to his bed fast- 
ing and without a light. It was three in the 
morning when my lady returned from that con- 
venticle, and, hearing of the assault (because the 
maid had sat up for her, weeping), went to their 
common chamber with a lantern in hand and 
stamping with her shoes so as to wake the dead; 
it was supposed, by those that heard her, from 
a design to have it out with the goodman at once. 
The house-servants gathered on the stair, because 
it was a main interest with them to know which 

442 



TRAQUAIRS OF MONTROYMONT 

of these two was the better horse; and for the 
space of two hours they were heard to go at the 
matter, hammer and tongs. Montroymont al- 
leged he was at the end of his possibilities; it was 
no longer within his power to pay the annual 
rents; she had served him basely by keeping 
conventicles while he lay in prison for her sake; 
his friends were weary, and there was nothing 
else before him but the entire loss of the family 
lands, and to begin life again by the wayside as 
a common beggar. She took him up very sharp 
and high: called upon him, if he were a Christian? 
and which he most considered, the loss of a 
few dirty, miry glebes, or of his soul? Presently 
he was heard to weep, and my lady's voice to go 
on continually like a running burn, only the 
words indistinguishable; whereupon it was sup- 
posed a victory for her ladyship, and the domes- 
tics took themselves to bed. The next day 
Traquair appeared like a man who had gone 
under the harrows; and his lady wife thencefor- 
ward continued in her old course without the 
least deflection. 

Thenceforward Ninian went on his way with- 
out complaint, and suffered his wife to go on 
hers without remonstrance. He still minded his 
estate, of which, it might be said, he took daily 
a fresh farewell, and counted it already lost; 
looking ruefully on the acres and the graves of 
his fathers, on the moorlands where the wild- 
fowl consorted, the low, gurgling pool of the 

443 



HEATHERCAT 

trout, and the high, windy place of the calling 
curlews things that were yet his for the day 
and would be another's to-morrow; coming back 
again, and sitting ciphering till the dusk at his 
approaching ruin, which no device of arithmetic 
could postpone beyond a year or two. He was 
essentially the simple ancient man, the farmer 
and landholder; he would have been content to 
watch the seasons come and go, and his cattle 
increase, until the limit of age; he would have 
been content at any time to die, if he could have 
left the estates undiminished to an heir male of 
his ancestors, that duty standing first in his in- 
stinctive calendar. And now he saw everywhere 
the image of the new proprietor come to meet 
him, and go sowing and reaping, or fowling for 
his pleasure on the red moors, or eating the very 
gooseberries in the Place garden; and saw al- 
ways, on the other hand , the figure of Francis 
go forth, a beggar, into the broad world. 

It was in vain the poor gentleman sought to 
moderate; took every test and took advantage 
of every indulgence; went and drank with the 
dragoons in Balweary ; attended the communion 
and came regularly to the church to Curate 
Haddo, with his son beside him. The mad, rag- 
ing, Presbyterian zealot of a wife at home made 
all of no avail ; and indeed the house must have 
fallen years before if it had not been for the se- 
cret indulgence of the curate, who had a great 
sympathy with the laird, and winked hard at the 

444 



TRAQUAIRS OF MONTROYMONT 

doings in Montroymont. This curate was a 
man very ill reputed in the country-side, and 
indeed in all Scotland. "Infamous Haddo" is 
Shield's expression. But Patrick Walker is more 
copious. "Curate Hall Haddo," says he, sub 
voce Peden, "or Hell Haddo as he was more justly 
to be called, a pokeful of old condemned errors 
and the filthy lusts of the flesh, a published 
whoremonger, a common gross drunkard, con- 
tinually and godlessly scraping and skirling on a 
fiddle, continually breathing flames against the 
remnant of Israel. But the Lord put an end to 
his piping, and all these offences were composed 
into one bloody grave." No doubt this was 
written to excuse his slaughter; and I have 
never heard it claimed for Walker that he was 
either a just witness or an indulgent judge. At 
least, in a merely human character, Haddo comes 
off not wholly amiss in the matter of these Tra- 
quairs: not that he showed any graces of the 
Christian, but had a sort of pagan decency, 
which might almost tempt one to be concerned 
about his sudden, violent, and unprepared fate. 



445 



CHAPTER II 

FR ANCIE 

FRANCIE was eleven years old, shy, secret, 
and rather childish of his age, though not 
backward in schooling, which had been pushed 
on far by a private governor, one M'Brair, a for- 
feited minister harboured in that capacity at 
Montroymont. The boy, already much em- 
ployed in secret by his mother, was the most 
apt hand conceivable to run upon a message, to 
carry food to lurking fugitives, or to stand sentry 
on the sky-line above a conventicle. It seemed 
no place on the moorlands was so naked but 
what he would find cover there ; and as he knew 
every hag, boulder, and heatherbush in a circuit 
of seven miles about Montroymont, there was 
scarce any spot but what he could leave or ap- 
proach it unseen. This dexterity had won him 
a reputation in that part of the country; and 
among the many children employed in these 
dangerous affairs, he passed under the by-name 
of Heathercat. 

How much his father knew of this employment 
might be doubted. He took much forethought 

446 



FRANCIE 

for the boy's future, seeing he was like to be left 
so poorly, and would sometimes assist at his 
lessons, sighing heavily, yawning deep, and now 
and again patting Francie on the shoulder if he 
seemed to be doing ill, by way of a private, kind 
encouragement. But a great part of the day 
was passed in aimless wanderings with his eyes 
sealed, or in his cabinet sitting bemused over the 
particulars of the coming bankruptcy; and the 
boy would be absent a dozen times for once that 
his father would observe it. 

On the 2nd of July, 1682, the boy had an er- 
rand from his mother, which must be kept pri- 
vate from all, the father included in the first of 
them. Crossing the braes, he hears the clatter 
of a horse's shoes, and claps down incontinent 
in a hag by the wayside. And presently he spied 
his father come riding from one direction, and 
Curate Haddo walking from another ; and Mon- 
troymont leaning down from the saddle, and 
Haddo getting on his toes (for he was a little, 
ruddy, bald-pated man, more like a dwarf), they 
greeted kindly, and came to a halt within two 
fathoms of the child. 

"Montroymont," the curate said, "the de'il 's 
in 't but I'll have to denunciate your leddy 
again." 

"De'il 's in 't indeed!" says the laird. 

"Man! can ye no induce her to come to the 
kirk?" pursues Haddo; "or to a communion at 
the least of it. For the conventicles, let be! 

447 



HEATHERCAT 

and the same for yon solemn fule, M'Brair: I 
can blink at them. But she's got to come to the 
kirk, Montroymont." 

"Dinna speak of it," says the laird. "I can 
do nothing with her." 

"Couldn't ye try the stick to her? It works 
wonders whiles, ' ' suggested Haddo. ' ' No? I'm 
wae to hear it. And I suppose ye ken where 
you're going?" 

"Fine!" said Montroymont. "Fine do I ken 
where: Bankrup'cy and the Bass Rock!" 

"Praise to my bones that I never married!" 
cried the curate. "Well, it's a grievous thing 
to me to see an auld house dung down that was 
here before Flodden Field. But naebody can 
say it was with my wish." 

"No more they can, Haddo!" says the laird. 
"A good friend ye've been to me, first and last. 
I can give you that character with a clear con- 
science." 

Whereupon they separated, and Montroymont 
rode briskly down into the Dule Valley. But of 
the curate Francie was not to be quit so easily. 
He went on with his little, brisk steps to the 
corner of a dyke, and stopped and whistled and 
waved upon a lassie that was herding qattle there. 
This Janet M 'Clour was a big lass, being taller 
than the curate; and what made her look the 
more so, she was kilted very high. It seemed 
for a while she would not come, and Francie 
heard her calling Haddo a "daft auld fule," and 

448 



FRANCIE 

saw her running and dodging him among the 
whins and hags till he was fairly blown. But at 
the last he gets a bottle from his plaid-neuk and 
holds it up to her; whereupon she came at once 
into a composition, and the pair sat, drinking of 
the bottle, and daffing and laughing together, on 
a mound of heather. The boy had scarce heard 
of these vanities, or he might have been minded 
of a nymph and satyr, if anybody could have 
taken long-leggit Janet for a nymph. But they 
seemed to be huge friends, he thought; and was 
the more surprised, when the curate had taken 
his leave, to see the lassie fling stones after him 
with screeches of laughter, and Haddo turn 
about and caper, and shake his staff at her, and 
laugh louder than herself. A wonderful merry 
pair, they seemed; and when Francie crawled 
out of the hag, he had a great deal to consider in 
his mind. It was possible they were all fallen 
in error about Mr. Haddo, he reflected, having 
seen him so tender with Montroymont, and so 
kind and playful with the lass Janet; and he 
had a temptation to go out of his road and ques- 
tion her herself upon the matter. But he had 
a strong spirit of duty on him; and plodded 
on instead over the braes till he came near the 
House of Cairngorm. There, in a hollow place 
by the burn-side that was shaded by some 
birks, he was aware of a barefoot boy, perhaps 
a matter of three years older than himself. 
The two approached with the precautions of 

449 



HEATHERCAT 

a pair of strange dogs, looking at each other 
queerly. 

"It's ill weather on the hills," said the 
stranger, giving the watchword. 

"For a season," said Francie, "but the Lord 
will appear." 

"Richt," said the barefoot boy. "Wha're ye 
frae?" 

"The Leddy Montroymont," says Francie. 

"Ha'e then!" says the stranger, and handed 
him a folded paper, and they stood and looked at 
each other again. "It's unco' het," said the boy. 

"Dooms het," says Francie. 

"What do they ca' ye?" says the other. 

"Francie," says he. "I'm young Montroy- 
mont. They ca' me Heathercat." 

"I'm Jock Crozer," said the boy. And there 
was another pause, while each rolled a stone 
under his foot. 

"Cast your jaiket and I'll fecht ye for a baw- 
bee," cried the elder boy, with sudden violence, 
and dramatically throwing back his jacket. 

"Na, I have nae time the now," said Francie, 
with a sharp thrill of alarm, because Crozer was 
much the heavier boy. 

" Ye're feared. Heathercat indeed ! " said Cro- 
zer, for among this infantile army of spies and 
messengers the fame of Crozer had gone forth 
and was resented by his rivals. And with that 
they separated. 

On his way home Francie was a good deal 
450 



FRANCIE 

occupied with the recollection of this untoward 
incident. The challenge had been fairly offered 
and basely refused : the tale would be carried all 
over the country, and the lustre of the name of 
Heathercat be dimmed. But the scene between 
Curate Haddo and Janet M'Clour had also given 
him much to think of; and he was still puzzling 
over the case of the curate, and why such ill 
words were said of him, and why, if he were so 
merry-spirited, he should yet preach so dry, 
when, coming over a knowe, whom should he see 
but Janet, sitting with her back to him, minding 
her cattle! He was always a great child for 
secret, stealthy ways, having been employed by 
his mother on errands when the same was neces- 
sary; and he came behind the lass without her 
hearing. 

"Jennet," says he. 

"Keep me!" cries Janet, springing up. "0, 
it's you, Maister Francie ! Save us, what a fricht 
ye gied me!" 

"Ay, it's me," said Francie. "I've been 
thinking, Jennet; I saw you and the curate 
a while back " 

"Brat!" cried Janet, and coloured up crimson; 
and the one moment made as if she would have 
stricken him with a ragged stick she had to chase 
her bestial with, and the next was begging and 
praying that he would mention it to none. It 
was "naebody's business, whatever," she said; 
"it would just start a clash in the country"; 

451 



HEATHERCAT 

and there would be nothing left for her but to 
drown herself in Dule Water. 

"Why?" says Francie. 

The girl looked at him and grew scarlet again. 

"And it isna that, anyway," continued Fran- 
cie. "It was just that he seemed so good to 
ye like our Father in Heaven, I thought; and 
I thought that mebbe, perhaps, we had all been 
wrong about him from the first. But I'll have 
to tell Mr. M'Brair, I'm under a kind of a bar- 
gain to him to tell him all." 

"Tell it to the divil if ye like for me!" cried 
the lass. "I've naething to be ashamed of. 
Tell M'Brair to mind his ain affairs," she cried 
again; "they'll be hot eneuch for him, if Had- 
die likes ! " And so strode off, shoving her beasts 
before her, and ever and again looking back and 
crying angry words to the boy, where he stood 
mystified. 

By the time he had got home his mind was 
made up that he would say nothing to his 
mother. My Lady Montroymont was in the 
keeping-room, reading a godly book; she was a 
wonderful frail little wife to make so much noise 
in the world and be able to steer about that 
patient sheep her husband; her eyes were like 
sloes, the fingers of her hands were like tobacco- 
pipe shanks, her mouth shut tight like a trap; 
and even when she was the most serious, and 
still more when she was angry, there hung about 
her face the terrifying semblance of a smile. 

452 



FRANCIE 

"Have ye gotten the billet, Francie?" said 
she; and when he had handed it over, and she 
had read and burned it, " Did you see anybody? " 
she asked. 

"I saw the laird," said Francie. 

" He didna see you, though? ' ' asked his mother. 

"De'il a fear," from Francie. 

"Francie!" she cried. "What's that I hear? 
an aith? The Lord forgive me, have I broughten 
forth a brand for the burning, a fagot for hell- 
fire?" 

"I'm very sorry, ma'am," said Francie. "I 
humbly beg the Lord's pardon, and yours, for 
my wickedness." 

"H'm," grunted the lady. "Did ye see no- 
body else?" 

"No, ma'am," said Francie, with the face of 
an angel, "except Jock Crozer, that gied me the 
billet." 

"Jock Crozerl" cried the lady. "I'll Crozer 
them! Crozers indeed! What next? Are we 
to repose the lives of a suffering remnant in 
Crozers? The whole clan of them wants hang- 
ing, and if I had my way of it, they wouldna 
want it long. Are you aware, sir, that these 
Crozers killed your forebear at the kirk-door?" 

"You see, he was bigger 'n me," said Francie. 

"Jock Crozer," continued the lady. "That'll 
be Clement's son, the biggest thief and reiver in 
the country-side. To trust a note to him! But 
I'll give the benefit of my opinions to Lady 

453 



Whitecross when we two forgather. Let her 
look to herself! I have no patience with half- 
hearted carlines, that complies on the Lord's day 
morning with the kirk, and comes taigling the 
same night to the conventicle. The one or the 
other! is what I say: Hell or Heaven Haddie's 
abominations or the pure word of God dreeping 
from the lips of Mr. Arnot. 
< 

" ' Like honey from the honeycomb 
That dreepeth, sweeter far.' " 

My lady was now fairly launched, and that 
upon two congenial subjects: the deficiencies of 
the Lady Whitecross, and the turpitudes of the 
whole Crozer race which, indeed, had never 
been conspicuous for respectability. She pur- 
sued the pair of them for twenty minutes on 
the clock with wonderful animation and detail, 
something of the pulpit manner, and the spirit 
of one possessed. "0 hellish compliance I" she 
exclaimed. "I would not suffer a complier to 
break bread with Christian folk. Of all the 
sins of this day there is not one so God-defying, 
so Christ-humiliating, as damnable compliance"; 
the boy standing before her meanwhile, and 
brokenly pursuing other thoughts, mainly of 
Haddo and Janet, and Jock Crozer stripping off 
his jacket. And yet, with all his distraction, it 
might be argued that he heard too much; his 
father and himself being "compilers" that is 

454 



FRANCIE 

to say, attending the church of the parish as the 
law required. 

Presently, the lady's passion beginning to de- 
cline or her flux of ill words to be exhausted, she 
dismissed her audience. Francie bowed low, 
left the room, closed the door behind him; and 
then turned him about in the passageway, and 
with a low voice, but a prodigious deal of senti- 
ment, repeated the name of the evil one twenty 
times over, to the end of which, for the greater 
efficacy, he tacked on "damnable" and "hel- 
lish." Fas est ab hoste doceri disrespect is made 
more pungent by quotation; and there is no 
doubt but he felt relieved, and went up-stairs 
into his tutor's chamber with a quiet mind. 
M'Brair sat by the cheek of the peat-fire and 
shivered, for he had a quartan ague, and this was 
his day. The great nightcap and plaid, the dark 
unshaven cheeks of the man, and the white, thin 
hands that held the plaid about his chittering 
body, made a sorrowful picture. But Francie 
knew and loved him; came straight in, nestled 
close to the refugee, and told his story. M'Brair 
had been at the College with Haddo; the Presby- 
tery had licensed both on the same day; and at 
this tale, told with so much innocency by the 
boy, the heart of the tutor was commoved. 

"Woe upon him! Woe upon that man!" he 
cried. "0 the unfaithful shepherd! the 
hireling and apostate minister! Make my mat- 
ters hot for me? quo' she! the shameless limmer! 

455 



HEATHERGAT 

And true it is that he could repose me in that 
nasty, stinking hole, the Canongate Tolbooth, 
from which your mother drew me out the Lord 
reward her for it! or to that cold, unbieldy, 
marine place of the Bass Rock, which, with my 
delicate kist, would be fair ruin to me. But I 
will be valiant in my Master's service. I have 
a duty here: a duty to my God, to myself, and 
to Haddo: in His strength, I will perform it." 

Then he straightly discharged Francie to re- 
peat the tale, and bade him in the future to avert 
his very eyes from the doings of the curate. 
"You must go to his place of idolatry; look upon 
him there!" says he, "but nowhere else. Avert 
your eyes, close your ears, pass him by like a 
three days' corp'. He is like that damnable 
monster Basiliscus, which defiles yea, poisons! 
by the sight." All which was hardly claratory 
to the boy's mind. 

Presently Montroymont came home, and 
called up the stairs to Francie. Traquair was a 
good shot and swordsman; and it was his pleasure 
to walk with his son over the braes of the moor- 
fowl, or to teach him arms in the back court, 
when they made a mighty comely pair, the child 
being so lean and light and active, and the laird 
himself a man of a manly, pretty stature, his 
hair (the periwig being laid aside) showing al- 
ready white with many anxieties, and his face of 
an even, flaccid red. But this day Francie's 
heart was not in the fencing. 

456 



FRANCIE 

"Sir," says he, suddenly lowering his point, 
"will ye tell me a thing if I was to ask it?" 

"Ask away," says the father. 

"Well, it's this," said Francie: "Why do you 
and me comply if it's so wicked?" 

"Ay, ye have the cant of it, too!" cries Mont- 
roymont. " But I'll tell ye for all that. It's to 
try and see if we can keep the rigging on this 
house, Francie. If she had her way, we would 
be beggar-folk and hold our hands out by the 
wayside. When ye hear her when ye hear 
folk," he corrected himself briskly, "call me a 
coward, and one that betrayed the Lord, and I 
kenna what else, just mind it was to keep a bed 
to ye to sleep in and a bite for ye to eat. On 
guard!" he cried, and the lesson proceeded again 
till they were called to supper. 

"There's another thing yet," said Francie, 
stopping his father. "There's another thing 
that I am not sure I am very caring for. She 
she sends me errands." 

"Obey her, then, as is your bounden duty," 
said Traquair. 

"Ay, but wait till I tell ye," says the boy. " If 
I was to see you I was to hide." 

Montroymont sighed. "Well, and that's good 
of her, too," said he. "The less that I ken of thir 
doings the better for me; and the best thing you 
can do is just to obey her, and see and be a good 
son to her, the same as ye are to me, Francie." 

At the tenderness of this expression the heart 
457 



HEATHERCAT 

of Francie swelled within his bosom, and his re- 
morse was poured out. "Faither!" he cried, "I 
said 'de'il' to-day; many's the time I said it, 
and 'damnable' too, and 'hellitsh.' I ken 
they're all right ; they're beeblical. But I didna 
say them beeblically; I said them for sweir- 
words that's the truth of it." 

"Hout, ye silly bairn! " said the father; "dinna 
do it nae mair, and come in by to your supper." 
And he took the boy, and drew him close to him 
a moment, as they went through the door, with 
something very fond and secret, like a caress 
between a pair of lovers. 

The next day M'Brair was abroad in the after- 
noon, and had a long advising with Janet on 
the braes where she herded cattle. What passed 
was never wholly known ; but the lass wept bit- 
terly, and fell on her knees to him among the 
whins. The same night, as soon as it was dark, 
he took the road again for Balweary. In the 
Kirkton, where the dragoons quartered, he saw 
many lights, and heard the noise of a ranting 
song and people laughing grossly, which was 
highly offensive to his mind. He gave it the 
wider berth, keeping among the fields; and came 
down at last by the water-side, where the manse 
stands solitary between the river and the road. 
He tapped at the back door, and the old woman 
called upon him to come in, and guided him 
through the house to the study, as they still 
called it, though there was little enough study 

458 



FRANCJE 

there in Haddo's days, and more song-books 
than theology. 

"Here's yin to speak wi' ye, Mr. Haddiel" 
cries the old wife. 

And M'Brair, opening the door and entering, 
found the little, round, red man seated in one 
chair and his feet upon another. A clear fire 
and a tallow dip lighted him barely. He was 
taking tobacco in a pipe, and smiling to himself; 
and a brandy-bottle and glass, and his fiddle 
and bow, were beside him on the table. 

"Hech, Patey M'Brair, is this you?" said he, 
a trifle tipsily. "Step in by, man, and have a 
drop brandy: for the stomach's sake! Even the 
de'il can quote Scripture eh, Patey?" 

"I will neither eat nor drink with you," re- 
plied M'Brair. " I am come upon my Master's 
errand: woe be upon me if I should anyways 
mince the same. Hall Haddo, I summon you 
to quit this kirk which you encumber." 

"Muckle obleeged!" says Haddo, winking. 

"You and me have been to kirk and market 
together," pursued M'Brair: "we have had 
blessed seasons in the kirk, we have sat in the 
same teaching-rooms and read in the same book; 
and I know you still retain for me some carnal 
kindness. It would be my shame if I denied it; 
I live here at your mercy and by your favour, 
and glory to acknowledge it. You have pity 
on my wretched body, which is but grass, and 
must soon be trodden under; but 0, Haddo! 

459 



HEATHERCAT 

how much greater is the yearning with which I 
yearn after and pity your immortal soull Come 
now, let us reason together 1 I drop all points 
of controversy, weighty though these be ; I take 
your defaced and damnified kirk on your own 
terms; and I ask you, Are you a worthy minis- 
ter? The communion season approaches; how 
can you pronounce thir solemn words, 'The 
elders will now bring forrit the elements,' and 
not quail? A parishioner may be summoned 
to-night; you may have to rise from your miser- 
able orgies; and I ask you, Haddo, what does 
your conscience tell you? Are you fit? Are 
you fit to smooth the pillow of a parting Chris- 
tian? And if the summons should be for your- 
self, how then?" 

Haddo was startled out of all composure and 
the better part of his temper. "What's this of 
it? " he cried. " I'm no waur than my neebours. 
I never set up tobespeeritual; I never did. I'm 
a plain, canty creature ; godliness is cheerfulness, 
says I; give me my fiddle and a dram, and I 
wouldna hairm a flee." 

"And I repeat my question," said M'Brair: 
"Are you fit fit for this great charge? Fit to 
carry and save souls?" 

"Fit? Blethers! As fit's yoursel'," cried Had- 
do. 

"Are you so great a self-deceiver? " said 
M'Brair. "Wretched man, trampler upon God's 
covenants, crucifier of your Lord afresh! I will 

460 



FRANCIE 

ding you to the earth with one word : How about 
the young woman, Janet M'Clour?" 

"Well, what about her? what do I ken?" 
cries Haddo. "M'Brair, ye daft auld wife, I 
tell ye as true's truth, I never meddled her. It 
was just daffing, I tell ye: daffing, and nae mair: 
a piece of fun, like! I'm no' denying but what 
I'm fond of fun, sma' blame to me! But for 
onything sarious hout, man, it might come to a 
deposeetion! I'll sweir it to ye. Where's a 
Bible, till you hear me sweir?" 

"There is nae Bible in your study," said 
M'Brair severely. 

And Haddo, after a few distracted turns, was 
constrained to accept the fact. 

"Weel, and suppose there isna?" he cried, 
stamping. "What mair can ye say of us, but 
just that I'm fond of my joke, and so's she? I 
declare to God, by what I ken, she might be the 
Virgin Mary if she would just keep clear of 
the dragoons. But me! na, de'il haet o' me!" 

"She is penitent at least," says M'Brair. 

"Do you mean to actually up and tell me to 
my face that she accused me?" cried the curate. 

"I canna just say that," replied M'Brair. 
"But I rebuked her in the name of God, and she 
repented before me on her bended knees." 

"Weel, I daursay she's been ower far' wi' the 
dragoons," said Haddo. "I never denied that. 
I ken naething by it." 

"Man, you but show your nakedness the more 
461 



HEATHERCAT 

plainly," said M'Brair. "Poor, blind, besotted 
creature and I see you stoitering on the brink 
of dissolution: your light out, and your hours 
numbered. Awake, man!" he shouted with a 
formidable voice, "awake, or it be ower late." 

"Be damned if I stand this!" exclaimed Had- 
do, casting his tobacco-pipe violently on the 
table, where it was smashed in pieces. "Out of 
my house with ye, or I'll call for the dragoons." 

"The speerit of the Lord is upon me," said 
M'Brair, with solemn ecstasy. "I sist you to 
compear before the Great White Throne, and I 
warn you the summons shall be bloody and 
sudden." 

And at this, with more agility than could have 
been expected, he got clear of the room and 
slammed the door behind him in the face of the 
pursuing curate. The next Lord's day the 
curate was ill, and the kirk closed, but for all his 
ill words, Mr. M'Brair abode unmolested in the 
house of Montroymont. 



462 



CHAPTER III 

THE HILL-END OF DRUMLOWE 

r I ''HIS was a bit of a steep broken hill that over- 
J- looked upon the west a moorish valley, full 
of ink-black pools. These presently drained into 
a burn that made off, with little noise and no 
celerity of pace, about the corner of the hill. On 
the far side the ground swelled into a bare heath, 
black with junipers, and spotted with the pres- 
ence of the standing stones for which the place 
was famous. They were many in that part, 
shapeless, white with lichen you would have 
said with age; and had made their abode there 
for untold centuries, since first the heathens 
shouted for their installation. The ancients had 
hallowed them to some ill religion, and their 
neighbourhood had long been avoided by the 
prudent before the fall of day; but of late, on 
the upspringing of new requirements, these lonely 
stones on the moor had again become a place 
of assembly. A watchful picket on the Hill-end 
commanded all the northern and eastern ap- 
proaches; and such was the disposition of the 
ground, that by certain cunningly posted sen- 

463 



HEATHERCAT 

tries the west also could be made secure against 
surprise: there was no place in the country 
where a conventicle could meet with more quiet 
of mind or a more certain retreat open, in the 
case of interference from the dragoons. The 
minister spoke from a knowe close to the edge of 
the Ring, and poured out the words God gave 
him on the very threshold of the devils of yore. 
When they pitched a tent (which was often in 
wet weather, upon a communion occasion) it 
was rigged over the huge isolated pillar that has 
the name of Anes-Errand, none knew why. And 
the congregation sat partly clustered on the 
slope below, and partly among the idolatrous 
monoliths and on the turfy soil of the Ring it- 
self. In truth the situation was well qualified to 
give a zest to Christian doctrines, had there been 
any wanted. But these congregations assem- 
bled under conditions at once so formidable and 
romantic as made a zealot of the most cold. 
They were the last of the faithful; God, who had 
averted His face from all other countries of the 
world, still leaned from Heaven to observe, with 
swelling sympathy, the doings of His moorland 
remnant; Christ was by them with His eternal 
wounds, with dropping tears; the Holy Ghost 
(never perfectly realised nor firmly adopted by 
Protestant imaginations) was dimly supposed to 
be in the heart of each and on the lips of the 
minister. And over against them was the army 
of the hierarchies, from the men Charles and 

464 



HILL-END OF DRUMLOWE 

James Stuart, on to King Lewie and the Em- 
peror; and the scarlet Pope, and the muckle 
black devil himself, peering out the red mouth 
of hell in an ecstasy of hate and hope. "One 
pull more!" he seemed to cry; "one pull more, 
and it's done. There's only Clydesdale and the 
Stewartry, and the three Bailieries of Ayr, left 
for God." And with such an august assistance 
of powers and principalities looking on at the 
last conflict of good and evil, it was scarce possi- 
ble to spare a thought to those old, infirm, deb- 
ile ab agendo devils whose holy place they were 
now violating. 

There might have been three hundred to four 
hundred present. At least there were three 
hundred horse tethered for the most part in the 
Ring; though some of the hearers on the out- 
skirts of the crowd stood with their bridles in 
their hand, ready to mount at the first signal. 
The circle of faces was strangely characteristic; 
long, serious, strongly marked, the tackle stand- 
ing out in the lean brown cheeks, the mouth set 
and the eyes shining with a fierce enthusiasm; 
the shepherd, the labouring man, and the rarer 
laird, stood there in their broad blue bonnets or 
laced hats, and presenting an essential identity 
of type. From time to time a long-drawn groan 
of adhesion rose in this audience, and was propa- 
gated like a wave to the outskirts, and died away 
among the keepers of the horses. It had a name ; 
it was called "a holy groan." 

465 



HEATHERCAT 

A squall came up; a great volley of flying 
mist went out before it and whelmed the scene; 
the wind stormed with a sudden fierceness that 
carried away the minister's voice and twitched 
his tails and made him stagger, and turned the 
congregation for a moment into a mere pother of 
blowing plaid-ends and prancing horses; and the 
rain followed and was dashed straight into their 
faces. Men and women panted aloud in the 
shock of that violent shower-bath; the teeth 
were bared along all the line in an involuntary 
grimace; plaids, mantles, and riding-coats were 
proved vain, and the worshippers felt the water 
stream on their naked flesh. The minister, re- 
inforcing his great and shrill voice, continued to 
contend against and triumph over the rising of 
the squall and the dashing of the rain. 

"In that day ye may go thirty mile and not 
hear a crawing cock," he said; "and fifty mile 
and not get a light to your pipe ; and an hundred 
mile and not see a smoking house. For there'll be 
naething in all Scotland but deid men's banes and 
blackness, and the living anger of the Lord. 0, 
where to find a bield sirs, where to find a bield 
from the wind of the Lord's anger? Do ye call 
this a wind? Be thankit! Sirs, this is but a 
temporary dispensation; this is but a puff of 
wind, this is but a spit of rain and by with it. 
Already there's a blue bow in the west, and the 
sun will take the crown of the causeway again, 
and your things'll be dried upon ye, and your 

466 



HILL-END OF DRUMLOWE 

flesh will be warm upon your bones. But O, sirs, 
sirs! for the day of the Lord's anger!" 

His rhetoric was set forth with an ear-piercing 
elocution, and a voice that sometimes crashed 
like cannon. Such as it was, it was the gift of 
all hill-preachers, to a singular degree of likeness 
or identity. Their images scarce ranged beyond 
the red horizon of the moor and the rainy hill- 
top, the shepherd and his sheep, a fowling-piece, 
a spade, a pipe, a dunghill, a crowing cock, the 
shining and the withdrawal of the sun. An occa- 
sional pathos of simple humanity, and frequent 
patches of big biblical words, relieved the homely 
tissue. It was a poetry apart ; bleak, austere, but 
genuine, and redolent of the soil. 

A little before the coming of the squall there 
was a different scene enacting at the outposts. 
For the most part the sentinels were faithful to 
their important duty; the Hill-end of Drumlowe 
was known to be a safe meeting-place; and the 
out-pickets on this particular day had been 
somewhat lax from the beginning, and grew 
laxer during the inordinate length of the dis- 
course. Francie lay there in his appointed 
hiding-hole, looking abroad between two whin- 
bushes. His view was across the course of the 
burn, then over a piece of plain moorland, to 
a gap between two hills; nothing moved but 
grouse, and some cattle who slowly traversed his 
field of view, heading northward: he heard the 
psalms, and sang words of his own to the savage 

467 



HEATHERCAT 

and melancholy music ; for he had his own design 
in hand, and terror and cowardice prevailed in 
his bosom alternately, like the hot and the cold 
fit of an ague. Courage was uppermost during 
the singing, which he accompanied through all 
its length with this impromptu strain: 

"And I will ding Jock Crozer down 
No later than the day." 

Presently the voice of the preacher came to him 
in wafts, at the wind's will, as by the opening 
and shutting of a door; wild spasms of screaming, 
as of some undiscerned gigantic hill-bird stirred 
with inordinate passion, succeeded to intervals 
of silence; and Francie heard them with a crit- 
ical ear. "Ay," he thought at last, "he'll do; 
he has the bit in his mou' fairly." 

He had observed that his friend, or rather his 
enemy, Jock Crozer, had been established at a 
very critical part of the line of outposts; namely, 
where the burn issues by an abrupt gorge from 
the semicircle of high moors. If anything was 
calculated to nerve him to battle it was this. 
The post was important; next to the Hill-end 
itself, it might be called the key to the position; 
and it was where the cover was bad, and in which 
it was most natural to place a child. It should 
have been Heathercat's; why had it been given 
to CrozerP An exquisite fear of what should be 
the answer passed through his marrow every 
time he faced the question. Was it possible 

468 



HILL-END OF DRUMLOWE 

that Crozer could have boasted? that there were 
rumours abroad to his Heathercat's dis- 
credit? that his honour was publicly sullied? All 
the world went dark about him at the thought; 
he sank without a struggle into the midnight 
pool of despair; and every time he so sank, he 
brought back with him not drowned heroism 
indeed, but half-drowned courage by the locks. 
His heart beat very slowly as he deserted his 
station, and began to crawl towards that of 
Crozer. Something pulled him back, and it was 
not the sense of duty, but a remembrance of 
Crozer's build and hateful readiness of fist. 
Duty, as he conceived it, pointed him forward 
on the rueful path that he was travelling. Duty 
bade him redeem his name if he were able, at 
the risk of broken bones; and his bones and 
every tooth in his head ached by anticipation. 
An awful subsidiary fear whispered him that if 
he were hurt, he should disgrace himself by 
weeping. He consoled himself, boy-like, with 
the consideration that he was not yet committed; 
he could easily steal over unseen to Crozer's 
post, and he had a continuous private idea that 
he would very probably steal back again. His 
course took him so near the minister that he 
could hear some of his words: "What news, 
minister, of Claver'se? He's going round like a 
roaring, rampaging lion . . . 



469 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

THE story, which opens with these scenes of covenanting life 
and character in Scotland, was intended to shift presently 
across the Atlantic, first to the Carolina plantations, and next 
to the ill-fated Scotch settlement in Darien. Practically all that 
we know of it is contained in one or two passages of letters from 
the author to Mr. Charles Baxter and Mr. S. R. Crockett. To 
Mr. Baxter he writes as follows: 

"6 Deer., 1893. 

'"Oct. 25, 1685, at Privy Council, George Murray, Lieutenant 
of the King's Guard, and others, did, on the 21 of September last, 
obtain a clandestine order of Privy Council to apprehend the per- 
son of Janet Pringle, daughter to the late Clifton, and she having 
retired out of the way upon information, he got an order against 
Andrew Pringle, her uncle, to produce her. . . . But she 
having married Andrew Pringle, her uncle's son (to disappoint 
all their designs of selling her), a boy of 13 years old' but my 
boy is 14, so I extract no farther (Fountainhall, i. 320). May 6, 
1685, Wappus Pringle of Clifton was still alive after all, 1 and in 
prison for debt, and transacts with Lieutenant Murray, giving 
security for 7000 marks (i. 320). 

"My dear Charles, the above is my story, and I wonder if 
any light can be thrown on it. I prefer the girl's father dead; 
and the question is how in that case could Lieutenant George 
Murray get his order to apprehend and his power to sell her in 
marriage? Or ... might Lieutenant G. be her tutor, and 
the fugitive to the Pringles, and on the discovery of her where- 
abouts hastily married? A good legal note on these points is 

x No; it seems to have been her brother who had succeeded. 

470 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

very ardently desired by me; it will be the corner-stone of my 
novel. 

"This is for I am quite wrong to tell you, for you will tell 
others and nothing will teach you that all my schemes are in the 
air, and vanish and re-appear again like shapes in the clouds 
it is for Heathercat: whereof the first volume will be called The 
Killing Time; and I believe I have authorities ample for that. 
But the second volume is to be called, I believe, Darien, and for 
that I want, I fear, a good deal of truck. 

Darien papers, 
Carstairs papers, 
Marchmont papers, 
Jerviswood correspondence 

I hope may do me; some sort of general history of the Darien 
affair (if there is a decent one, which I misdoubt) it would also 
be well to have; the one with most details, if possible. It is 
singular how obscure to me this decade of Scots History remains, 
1690-1700: a deuce of a want of light and grouping to it. How- 
ever, I believe I shall be mostly out of Scotland in my tale; first 
in Carolina and next in Darien." 

The place of Andrew Pringle, in the historical extract above 
quoted, was evidently to be taken in Stevenson's story by 
Ninian Traquair of Montroymont. In a rough draft of chapter 
headings, chap. vi. bears the title, "The Ward Comes Home"; 
another chapter shows that her name was to have been Jean 
Ruthven; plainly Francie Traquair was to be the boy-husband 
to whom this Jean was to be united in order to frustrate the de- 
signs of those who hoped to control her person and traffic in her 
marriage. 

The references in the author's letters to Mr. Crockett date 
from June 30, 1893, and afterwards. His correspondent was 
about this time engaged in preparing a covenanting romance of 
his own The Men of the Moss-Hags. On the first-named date 
Stevenson writes: "It may interest you to know that Weir of 
Hermiston, or The Hanging Judge, or whatever the mischief the 
thing is to be called, centres about the grave of the Praying 
Weaver of Balweary. And when Healhercat is written, if it 

471 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

ever is, 0, then there will be another chance for the Societies" 
(i. e., the United Societies, generally known in history as the 
Cameronians). A little later Stevenson received from the same 
correspondent, at his own request, materials for his work in the 
shape of extracts collected from the Earlston papers by the Rev. 
John Anderson, Assistant Curator of the Historical Department, 
Register House, Edinburgh; the minutes of the Societies, edited 
by the Rev. John Howie of Lochgoin, entitled "Faithful Con- 
tendings," etc., etc. Later, he sends a humorous sketch of a 
trespassing board and gallows, with R. L. S. in the act of hanging 
S. R. C., and on the board the words: "Notice The Camer- 
onians are the proppaty of me, R. L. S. trespassers and Raiders 
will be hung." In the letter accompanying this, he says: "I 
have made many notes for Heathercat, but do not get much for- 
rader. For one thing, I am not inside these people yet. Wait 
three years and I'll race you. For another thing, I am not a 
keen partisan, and to write a good book you must be. The 
Society men were brave, dour-headed, strong-hearted men fight- 
ing a hard battle and fighting it hardly. That is about all the 
use I have for them." Finally, in a letter written shortly before 
his death, he mentions having laid the story on the shelf, whether 
permanently or only for a while he does not know. 

SYDNEY COLVIN. 



472 






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